How Is COVID-19 Affecting Athletes?


Same field, new year. Photography by: Charlotte Nguyen and Julia Glascoe.

Charlotte Nguyen and Julia Glascoe

Due to the recent events of the Coronavirus pandemic, student-athletes have not been able to play or, in most cases, practice. The students that are able to practice are doing so under strict guidelines with social distancing. For the senior athletes, this has been detrimental to not only their senior year but their chance to play one more time as a team. As for the freshmen here at Huntington Beach High School, this has not been the start they were looking forward to. From distance learning to not being able to meet the team and practice, 2020 has not been the most traditional year.  

“It affects a ton of freshmen because being new to the school, you don’t know much about the school or the programs, therefore, you have a lot to learn, so having to adjust is difficult, but it’s important though to keep a positive attitude and hope for the best,” said Juliana Upstill. Upstill, a freshman here at HBHS, is a part of the girl’s soccer team. She explains that she has been lucky enough to practice outside of school, but she still does not know when she will be able to practice with her high school team. “With my club team, I have been practicing a lot for a few months. On the other hand, the team here at HBHS hasn’t organized anything,” she explained. 

As for the sophomores, this is not the year they had imagined. 

“We haven’t been able to train consistently, or even be in a pool, for almost four or five months,” said Kyle Shih, a varsity swimmer for the team here at Huntington. “With inconsistent training and loss of pool time, it feels that we are not individually improving, and team bonding has weakened. More importantly, many of the meets have been canceled, which means improvement upon times isn’t possible. While this sets all of us back in our goal achievement process, it also allowed us to take time to reflect and become mentally prepared for future challenges,” Shih said. He affirms that the pandemic has not only affected competitions but training as well.

Fortunately, Shih has been able to practice with his club and the HBHS boys swim team. “I practice outside of school every day of the week in addition to high school practices,” he said. 

Ella Kelly, also a sophomore athlete a part of the field hockey team, has a similar outlook. “COVID has canceled our season and many tournaments. So it’s been hard with that long of a break. Luckily we are getting back to the swing of things and practicing with our team under restrictions, but as of right now our season is postponed to December,” she said.

But, what is it like for the juniors? Moé Caruso, also a swimmer at Huntington, said that COVID has had a significant impact on her season. “The unpredictable course of COVID-19 has left many athletes, along with myself, not knowing what to work for, as there are no meets or competitions taking place. The lack of competitions has had a significant impact on the way I practice because I no longer am fixated on a certain event or meet to work towards, but rather can focus on so many different aspects of my swimming, so one day, I will be as prepared as possible for my meet and any event that I may be placed in,” she explained. 

Caruso has the opportunity to practice outside of school, even though she is unable to do the same with her school team. “During this time, I am fortunate to be able to safely have swim practice at my club. This year, I decided to not partake in off-season swim, so am not currently practicing at school. I am not sure when I will be returning to practice at HBHS, but am hoping that I will be back in the springtime during swim season,” she said. 

“As of right now, I don’t have actual [off season] practice and we [likely] won’t have a season if things are the same come spring season, which [is unfortunate] because I won’t be getting my senior year on varsity,” said Katie Hahn, a senior track and field athlete at HBHS. “We are just hopeful for right now,” she added.

After six to seven months off, most athletes have only recently resumed practice. According to Dillon Galitzen, a freshman on the football team, “players and coaches wear masks. On the field, we are all separated and only the players have their masks off, 6 feet apart of course.”  

In order for teams to practice, they must abide by essential precautions put in place by the Orange County Healthcare Agency to keep their athletes safe and healthy.

This pandemic has also impacted how students are presenting themselves as people outside of gameplay. According to Rachael Arnold, a junior softball player, “we are not allowed to high five at the end of the game anymore, which I find so important to show good sportsmanship.” As she stated, good sportsmanship is an important part of all sports. 

Moreover, the mental health of athletes has been affected as well. Numerous student-athletes rely on their sport as an escape. Madison Keller, a freshman soccer player said, “COVID-19 has affected this year for me in a very strange way. It is a lot harder for me to focus on school, as it is online. Sports were always my escape mechanism and now it’s hard for me to escape through my sports. This year has been different, and I am just hoping at this point that it starts to go away.” COVID has changed countless lives and will continue to do so. According to Ryan Haynes, a junior on the volleyball team, “player recruiting has been increasingly difficult for schools as…it is more difficult to watch the players [and get] in-person interaction.” Sports are essential for one’s physical and mental health. 

Everyone all over the world is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, both physically and mentally. Many junior and senior student-athletes are struggling because they cannot receive college scholarships for sports. Since they are not playing games, scouts cannot recruit them. Whether they play sports or not, the mental health of most students has been impacted in one way or another. It is important to continue to be kind to others, including student athletes, because one does not know their circumstances or experiences. Kindness, positivity, and hopefulness are extremely important during this time. We can only hope that our athletes can go back to practicing sometime soon.