Sports During the Pandemic

Student Athletes Discuss their Experiences in Pod Training


Sofia Guerra, News Editor

All Annie Wright Schools sports practices are conducted safely, with many guidelines in place to ensure the health of the student athletes. Athletic Director Mike Finch stated, “Students must register for the pod trainings via a google sign-up sheet to ensure we do not have too many people in one space. We temp check and use the myMed Bot questions prior to allowing for students to participate. These are recorded and archived for the purposes of possible contact tracing if it’s needed in the future”. Additionally, masks are mandatory for all practices and must be worn throughout the entirety of the duration, equipment is sanitized before and after each use. Students limit touching the equipment, if possible, and always sanitize their hands before if they must. 

These policies entailed the upheaval of old routines and the creation of a new normal for practices across all sports. Inkwell interviewed student athletes Terah Gruber (USG ‘21), Chai Kwa (USB ‘21), Sean Lee (USB ‘22), and Rae Wartelle (USG ‘23), about their experiences in their respective sports.

Students discussed the physical challenges some of the pod training policies entailed. “Workouts and drills that used to be a lot simpler last year pre-Covid turn into some of the most tiring workouts due to not being able to really get as much oxygen in your system as you would without the mask,” said Kwa, a member of the USB Basketball team. 

Along with the difficulty wearing masks posed, athletes also talked about having to change drills in accordance with guidelines. “To be honest, an example of a drill that has been cut or altered is almost all of our drills,” said USG Volleyball participant Wartelle. Athletes noted that they felt that a lot of key exercises were eliminated in order to adhere to pod training policies. “Since we should not touch the ball, we cannot practice serving, which is an important skill in tennis,” said Lee, USB Tennis player. 

Athletes also struggled with the separation, both physical and emotional, from their teammates that pod training resulted in. “For me, not having enough interaction with my teammates is the most challenging part. We cannot have high-fives or handshake [shake hands] as we usually do,” said Lee. Kwa added, “The biggest effect that pod training will have on my experience in basketball over the long run is it will really give that appreciation for those scrimmages and 1 on 1’s [that require interaction beyond what is allowed by the guidelines].” 

Despite facing drastic changes, the students remain optimistic. In response to every downside of pod training, the student athletes managed to find positives and reasons to be grateful. “It is definitely something to get used to,” said Wartelle in regards to mask-wearing, but “already, it has become easier in the past few weeks we’ve been practicing.”

Students also noted that one positive of less team or large group practices was the opportunity to hone in on their own skills. “The physical distance between my friends makes me focus on my own performance,” said Lee. “I can practice more in skills and basics through pod training.” Wartelle added, “We have more personalized practices that can be focused on a singular skill or whatever we want to work on that day. So, we can become more proficient in a skill that we might’ve not had the time for previously or would have to work on in our free time.”

According to Gruber, a USG soccer participant, despite the division and more isolative nature of practices, “we all have kept up our energy and enthusiasm and even the small groups.” Students’ optimism and ability to adapt kept morale from falling low despite extenuating circumstances. “I feel really lucky to have such great teammates that are down to work hard and adapt in these new situations too,” agreed Wartelle.

Above all, students expressed their appreciation for their sports and gratitude that they could return to practices in any form. “I’m really happy that we get the option to have pod training, especially my senior year, I didn’t want to miss out on a big part of my school experience,” said Gruber. Kwa added, “For me, playing basketball is my biggest outlet for dealing with stress, depression, anxiety and just really negative thoughts in general that are dragging me down…so just being able to have these practices really helps those who rely on basketball both as an outlet and as a future for themselves.”