Practices Begin Anew at Paly
January 20, 2021
On Friday, a CCS committee decided to allow high school teams to return to practice, and while squads are still forced to physically distance, the move has brought joy and rhythm to the lives of Paly athletes.
Last fall, many season one sports athletes had reason for optimism for a truncated season, however, in late November, Santa Clara county fell into the purple tier which forced an abrupt end to all practices. With the pandemic situation worsening, the chance for even a semblance of a spring season using virtual competitions looked dismal. Braden Leung, a Paly junior who runs cross country, was pessimistic at the time.
“I had given up on the season. Cross country is all about running against other people so you lose the spirit [if you race virtually],” he said.
The lack of formal practices forced many athletes to get creative with their training, similar to the previous lockdown order last spring. Some groups, such as the Paly boys baseball team, looked into forming a club in order to practice together. Others trained alone in the facilities available to them while still others cross-trained to maintain fitness without their desired facilities. Without coaches or facilities, all that was left for many scrappy Paly athletes was a drive to improve.
Now, as practices have returned as quickly as they had left, a cautious optimism has taken root among athletes. California’s stay at home order still restricts competition, but it’s not too difficult to imagine that the season could happen.
For teenagers who have been physically and socially isolated for an extended period of time, practices bring a world of benefits. CCS commissioner Dave Grissom said this was a primary reason for their decision when he spoke with the Mercury News.
“From a social-emotional wellbeing standpoint, our kids generally are struggling… Everyone wants our kids to get back on the field if we can,” Grissom said.
After his first practice on Wednesday, Leung experienced some of the benefits that the commissioner had intended to create.
“Being inside and not seeing many people for a while and then going to practice in what I think is a fairly safe environment is really nice… I just feel better in general,” he said.
Leung had been able to supplement the lack of practices with individual workouts but found they lacked what he valued most in the sport.
“Physical activity is a big part of it, but I can get that done outside of practice,” he said. “The social interaction… of running with friends is a big part of why I’m running,”
While the lack of competition provides challenges for athletes who had their sights set on recruitment or who find games the most motivating part of their sport, practices are a significant step forward.
Leung found value in the return of practices but sees the prospect of virtual meets in a more negative light.
“I am so glad to even have practice because for me I like seeing teammates more than actually competing,” he said. “[But] there’s a whole magic that’s at a cross country meet and I don’t know if that could be recaptured [with a virtual meet]”.
Paly is still eerily quiet throughout much of the day, but for a few hours as each day wanes, the familiar crack of the bat and splashes from the pool spread a touch of normal across the campus.