By Chris Dailey
People’s mouths and noses have disappeared, schools had to shut and go virtual, and sports have had to stop all in thanks to the coronavirus.
It all started on a Wednesday night in March when the NBA decided to shut down. Soon every league, including the Shore Conference, home of the Wall High School Crimson Knights, followed the NBA’s footsteps.
But now, the wait is over. The quarantine is over. Sports are back.
Some of the returning sports include the football team who are coming off an improbable state championship runner-up season and both the boys and girls soccer teams.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, fall sports have been quite different from previous years. 2020 will also go down as the only year where there weren’t hundreds of fans crowding the bleachers on a Friday night to watch under the lights football. Only a maximum of 500 people can attend sporting events because of Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order, the majority of those 500 being staff, the school band and cheerleaders, and family members of the team.
“Fortunately, most of our sports have less than that number at games, so fans can attend those as long as they practice 6-foot social distancing and wear face masks,” said Mr. Wall High School Athletic Director Thomas Ridoux. “[Football] Spectators will also need a wristband to gain admission to the game. Each participant for Wall football, band, and cheer will receive two wristbands that they can give to family or friends. As a result, no tickets will be sold this season.”
With only 500 people being allowed in, many fans have reverted to constant updates from students who are in the band and others they may know at the game.
Although everything looks smooth on paper, it was a very long and tedious process to do workouts in the summer.
As the NJSIAA and Wall have been in close contact with one another regarding the public safety of the student-athletes, many precautions have been taken during these summer workouts. This includes a mandatory daily pre-practice COVID questionnaire.
Ms. Melissa Frees, head coach of the Wall girls cross country team, was eager for the season to start. She said she still has to be smart on how she manages her team workouts in order to follow guidelines and maintain social distancing.
“We are lucky enough to coach a sport that is very individual and does not require physical contact between athletes or any sharing of equipment,” Coach Frees said. “The athletes can run and keep a nice distance between each other to follow social distancing. One thing we do take an extra step with is spreading the athletes apart during drills/stretching and when traveling to different locations while utilizing the school buses. The athletes are encouraged to bring their own water bottles to practice and meet as well.”
While Coach Frees works on improving her team for the season, many athletes have also been trying to mentally get ready for what will be the craziest seasons of their athletic careers.
Junior Jojo Gisoldi, the varsity goalkeeper for the Wall boys soccer team, has worked very hard to stay in shape throughout the offseason. He said he has also been very cautious about the virus. Gisoldi has been following rules handed to him on what to do and what not to do during these times.
“As of right now, training is no different than it was previously,” Gisoldi said. “The main difference is we have to check in before practice. During the summer, it was a lot more odd as we had to maintain social distancing and everything was crazier.”
Wall’s hybrid schedule and cautious approach have helped as high school sports returned.
Despite all the uncertainty, people who said they couldn’t and confusion, Wall has managed to put the students first.
For many athletes, this is their final year of playing the sports they love and Wall has made sure to keep the best interest of those athletes in mind with all of the decisions they have made to this point and will continue to do so.
For now, sports are back on and Wall looks to have yet another strong fall season after having an amazing season in 2019.