By Waverly Brannigan
With interscholastic sports returning this winter, girls basketball is working hard to adjust to the new normal of their season. Mainly, the team must adjust to the new normals of wearing masks and gameplay changes due to Covid-19, as well as rebounding from losing many seniors last year. Of course, with masks being a requirement for daily life now, sports are no different. It is very challenging to exercise while wearing a mask, but student-athletes began making adjustments during the fall seasons.
Coach Brian King assists Head Coach Raf Osona, and he believes that the biggest challenge the players face is in fact, mask-wearing. He says, “Wearing the masks makes it harder to breathe and I feel the players will need to be subbed out a little more frequently to be able to take mask breaks and catch their breath.” Ensuring each player’s health and safety is a must, and frequent subbing in order to help players catch their breath will definitely help them remain capable of playing over extended periods of time.
Senior and varsity player Sydney King also agrees that masks present a challenge, but she also feels that fitness is harder to achieve this winter. She attributes this to the fact that last spring season was canceled, along with fall season being intramural, which limited players’ opportunity to really maintain their fitness and skills. Although these challenges may be difficult for players to overcome in the beginning, the girls’ basketball team believes they will be able to adjust to wearing masks while playing, which only strengthens their game.
One major aspect of this year’s season is the upcoming young players, working hard to take over spots lost from last year’s seniors, including that of Malika Phillip and Madison Bird. While King feels it will be a challenge to fill the shoes of such players, she believes that they will be able to regardless.
She already sees this shift happening, with much of the junior class “stepping up as leaders on and off the court, and setting a great example for the younger players on the court.” It is always important for younger players to have strong role models, but this year especially, as many underclassmen are practicing at a varsity level.
In terms of younger players, Coach King also agrees that this season will be very beneficial for them. He notes that “some will be playing and practicing at the varsity level because we don’t have a large number of girls playing basketball this season,” meaning younger players must also take this chance to step out of their comfort zone and tackle a new challenge amidst the season. Maclaine Willett, junior, recognizes older players like herself must become role models for the underclassmen adjusting to a higher level of play.
Willett also feels that overall, the team’s morale has been strengthened as they work through the difficulties of this season together, claiming that “our morale has definitely become more energetic since we have some big shoes to fill from the players that left last year, but this year’s group works very well together.” Maintaining a positive attitude and building a strong morale will undoubtedly help the team grow closer together over the season, also enhancing their gameplay and how they work together on the court.
Playing a sport during the time of Covid-19 has been a challenge for athletes of all levels. Since this season is different from any other before it and presents its own unique challenges, players and coaches alike are simply happy for the chance to be out on the court. They also wouldn’t change a thing about their season; they are just thankful to be playing. Coach King is very grateful for the chance to have a season where they can play against other teams in their conference, as it has almost been a full year since a Whaler team competed competitively. King and Willett both agree, feeling that the chance to play competitively is a great opportunity within itself.
Coach King emphasizes that this season is “a great escape from everything that is happening in the world today.” As the team continues to work over the course of the season, they must hold onto that idea, believing that basketball and their time together as a team will continue to power them through any challenge thrown at them.