Athletics During Covid-19


Jacqueline Y.

Advanced Dance poses for the camera. Dance classes are being held entirely online this year.

At the start of the 2020 school year, Westridge athletics, like everything else, moved online. Now, in December, as Covid cases rise and new stay-at-home orders are put in place, going back to in-person training seems a lot farther away than it used to be. Despite the circumstances, Westridge coaches have been working to make sure that online athletics is close to the real thing and gives students a chance to train, stay healthy, and stay connected to their community during this turbulent time.

In September, the Westridge Athletic Department had a complete plan for online sports, ranging from online instructional videos featured on Finalsite, to the sports Padlet — an online platform filled with workouts and videos — to weekly team meetings with coaches. These videos give in-depth workouts specifically designed for each sport. Additionally, they give students a way to continue training for their sport.

Volleyball Padlet (Daria H.)

Melanie Horn, Athletics Director at Westridge, wants the online team meetings to feel as close to in-person practices as possible. “We try to create a team feel, and even though we cannot play, we can focus on skill development.” The meetings offer athletes a chance to socialize with their teams and train with coaches.

Students like Maria G.I. ‘24 have gone through ups and downs during this experience; For me, online sports has been really helpful, but also kind of difficult because you don’t have any of your teammates to practice with. I also play club soccer outside of school, so online sports has been a good extra workout that I get each week. Even though we can’t be together practicing in person, the workouts are still fun to do!”

Many students miss the connections forged by sports. Cyana L. ‘24 said, “Having to do sports online is definitely a big change from when we were in school. I feel that the teams don’t get as big of a chance to make friendships because there is more exercising as opposed to talking and making those connections. It’s not impossible to make friends online, but the opportunities to connect are definitely reduced.”

At the start of the school year, having in-person training seemed to be an upcoming possibility. The hope was that teams would implement some sort of safe, outdoor training, but as Covid numbers continue to rise, it is more likely that students will not be able to do in-person sports conditioning. Coach Horn assured students that the Athletics Department has shifted most of their programs online successfully. “As much as we don’t want it, we are prepared to continue this year completely online.” 

Online sports and classes can be very difficult for students, especially Physical Education, but students like Madeleine G. ‘24 are trying to make the most out of it: “So far at Westridge my physical education has been very good. Because I am a new student and I don’t know what P.E. class is like on a regular day, I would say that Westridge is doing a pretty good job of adding P.E. into our schedules.”

Coaches are working on keeping the teams’ meetings interactive while also producing more online interactive videos. “I try to be really enthusiastic. I try to get [Westridge athletes] really into volleyball. I am trying to ignite that passion for the sport even though we are doing it through a screen,” said Westridge volleyball coach Jenna Orlandini.

Coach Orlandini showing Volleyball Skills in a Padlet (Lucia P.)

Adapting the dance program to an online platform has required some improvisation on the part of the instructors. Kashmir Blake, Middle and Upper School Dance Instructor, has had to redesign many of the movements. “There isn’t space to do something like a leap or a running leap.” In addition to doing dances as a group in class, students also record individual videos and post them to FlipGrid — an online platform where students can share videos of themselves with their class.

The annual dance concert will still be happening in April, and although an online concert may not be ideal, it will still provide students with a chance to showcase their dance skills. Planning for an in-person and an online concert are two very different but equally demanding endeavors, and Blake believes that even if Westridge students return to campus by April, the concert will remain online. Blake said that having to suddenly switch to an in-person concert would be a “disaster.” She continued, “I would have to arrange things and change it a lot.” 

Some sports, like swimming, have adjusted easier to the conditions of the pandemic — mostly because of the chlorinated environment. In June, Rose Bowl Aquatics returned to in-person swimming after doing Zoom conditioning for three months. Although the new set up — which involves temperature taking, social distancing, and treading water in the middle of a lane — differs significantly from regular practice, it offers a solution for athletes to continue their training during covid.

Temperature taking station at Rose Bowl (Daria H.)

While athletic programs have had much to contend with in terms of setting up remote training opportunities, the upside has been that athletes are more motivated and enthusiastic about training. “The focus from the swimmers in the water has been great compared to pre-Covid. Honestly, probably because the swimmers are more ready to be there. Coming back to the pool, you’re ready to get in. You want to be with your friends and see everyone,” said Anika Apostalon, a competitive swimmer and coach at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center.

As a coach and a swimmer, Apostalon can relate to the problems on both sides. She understands some of the struggles athletes encounter around maintaining their motivation. “With Covid, it really challenges athletes to find their motivation and to find their ‘why?’ Around mid June-July, it became really hard to come to practice. I kept thinking ‘why are we training? Why am I going through these things when we don’t know how long we have?’ I think that it’s still kind of a work in progress. There have definitely been times where it’s really hard to get motivated.”

The pool at Rose Bowl (Daria H.)

As of December, the new Covid guidelines for swimming demand one person per lane. The Rose Bowl has followed by creating dryland workouts on Zoom to make up for the shortened practice times.

Staying motivated and connected to their training and to their teams is a priority for coaches, who had hoped to return in spring of 2021.Westridge hoped to be back on campus before the second semester, but due to the major spikes in Covid-19 cases following Thanksgiving break, a return will not be possible. “As much as we want to return to in-person practices and conditioning, we are putting safety first and respecting the health office,” said Coach Horn.

Adapting to new circumstances has been a challenge, both at Westridge and beyond. Sports teams all over have been working to redesign programs to adjust to the new times we are living in.