By Julia Esposito and Rachel Priest
As 2020 came to a close, many people were expecting the hardships of 2020 to come to a halt, too. Although those across the world have been faced with unfamiliar situations, the resumption of sports has brought a sense of normality into society. The NBA, college, and NHP basketball teams all had to find ways to adapt to the guidelines in order to be as safe as possible.
On December 22, 2020, the NBA basketball season officially kicked off. This season raised uncertainty for the friends and families of the players, but the NBA has laid out strict precautions to ensure safety for all teams. Steps like cleaning the basketballs, washing hands, and wearing masks have been instituted, but more detailed rules had to be followed as well. For instance, traveling parties have been limited to 45 people to contain exposure. If players do get the virus, they are mandated to participate in a self-quarantine of at least ten days. In addition, players are expected to continue workouts in the safety of their own homes while being virtually monitored by a staff member of the team. The dedicated fans who want to see their favorite players on the court must be just as careful; they are required to be at least thirty feet away from the court. The capacity of the arenas is capped at 25% and the spectators must test negative two days prior, or take a rapid test the day of the game.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has their own protocols for players, coaches, and fans. Some guidelines include staying more than six feet apart on the court when possible, wearing masks, and avoiding indoor dining. The safety protocol also suggests that teams should not exceed more than 30 individuals when traveling to and from games. If one player were to get infected, colleges consider quarantining the entire team, including coaching staff and essential personnel, whereas the NBA only requires the one infected member to quarantine. Due to these strict safety precautions, many games have been canceled or postponed when one member contracts the virus.
At New Hyde Park Memorial, there are numerous regulations for the athletes. They must fill out a COVID-19 self-examination form upon arrival to each practice. During practices they must keep their masks on, unless the coach offers a mask break.
“Though it can be difficult to adjust to these new regulations, the NHP athletes are up for any challenge placed in front of them...”
“Each player and/or small group must have their own basketballs. Also, there must be spacing of lines, keeping groups separated, and no defense playing offense. One on one and full team drills are always part of practice, but we have to forgo them as of now,” said Coach Bello.
“Personally, wearing a mask while I play doesn't bother me that much and the coaches are always trying to make sure we keep six feet apart,” said freshman basketball player Alexa Stec.
Since the locker rooms are closed, the players must come to practice ready to play. Using the water fountain is prohibited, as well as sharing water bottles, so the athletes need to bring their own. After practice, the custodians utilize a steam machine to sanitize the equipment before it is stored away. Though it can be difficult to adjust to these new regulations, the NHP athletes are up for any challenge placed in front of them.
“Fans or no fans, I would do anything to get back on the court playing with some competition...”
“We do our best to practice safely, but productively! We are able to focus a lot more on our individual skills. We are hopeful for having games this season. Fans or no fans, I would do anything to get back on the court playing with some competition,” said senior basketball player Emily Locker.
Sources from Anna Detke, Olivia Wong, Faiza Ahmed
NHP boys' varsity basketball players practice for their game; high-risk sport athletes wait to be COVID; girls' varsity basketball player Riley Griffin practices in a mask .
In addition to the new regulations, COVID-19 testing was set up at NHP Memorial for high-risk athletes on Monday, February 8, 2021, two days before the varsity boys’ first basketball game. Testing was organized by appointment and parents had to fill out Google Forms with the student athletes’ insurance information.
“It was a relatively quick process; we just had to get both of our nostrils swabbed. After that, all we had to do was wait 15 minutes, so I worked on homework and the time went by really quickly. I went at 1:20 p.m., which was my scheduled time and there was no wait at all,” said junior basketball player Amy Ugolini.
“It feels amazing [to be back]. Coaching is a passion for me and I believe it is a great release for the athletes. It shows in their enthusiasm and the happiness of just being with their teammates again. Being on a team is a bonding experience; you fail and succeed in front of your teammates daily, so it takes the group’s trust in each other to make that a comfortable feeling. We have also done a couple community service events, which is always a bonding experience,” said girls’ varsity basketball coach Mr. Bello.
Despite the new safety precautions, players are grateful to be playing again because the return of sports has brought back an aspect of their life that has been severely lacking for the past year. This is a step back into normalcy for sports on all levels, and fans and players alike feel relieved that athletes can get their heads back in the game.