Pandemic becomes obstacle for high school athletes


Maria Milligan and Yareli Perez Ortiz

In the series of unfortunate events revolving around Covid-19, students across the nation had to shut down their sports program, robbing them of their high school experience. 

California schools closed down in mid-March because of the expanding pandemic of Covid-19. Events like spirit weeks and club meetings were being held virtually and in person sporting events were put on hold. 

From incoming freshmen to graduating seniors, Covid-19 has changed high school for students all over the world, and students are feeling it more than ever in sports that brought the community and culture together. 

The Twin Rivers Unified School District announced on March 13 that classes were being cancelled because of COVID-19 and would resume after Spring Break on April 13. As a result, students would go about a month with no in-school sessions. 

This original shutdown lasted for more than the time announced. By the beginning of May, district schools had begun the process of “Distance Learning” where students completed online work for credit. But because there were no in-school sessions, sports and extracurriculars were also abruptly cancelled. 

Foothill’s baseball and cheer seasons were all cut short. 

“I felt devastated if I’m being honest,” Foothill baseball catcher, senior Ethen Southerland said. “Baseball was one thing that truly kept me motivated throughout school.” 

The baseball team’s last game before the cancellation of school was against Colfax High School. The Mustangs lost that game 25-0. 

“It is a barrier that stalled the progression for me to get better,” Southerland said, “and if this next season gets cancelled, which I hope it doesn’t, would probably affect my future self.” 

Southerland isn’t alone.

“I felt like Covid-19 was getting in the way of something that made me happy all the time,” Foothill senior cheer captain Isabelle Velasquez said.

 Athletes at Foothill relied not only on sports for happiness, but as an avenue for success in their future careers. As Foothills cheer team had just finished cheering on the football and basketball teams into the second round of playoffs, the first Covid-19 case in California was confirmed on February 26.

 Making it to the playoffs for varsity junior football player, running back and slot receiver Joel Powell, meant a lot towards his future goals of pursuing an athletic career.

“It’s a bummer to not start football or any sport correctly this year because to some of us players it is more than just a game,” Powell said.

“We actually want to pursue this as a career.” 

Foothills athletes have had to accept the halt brought on by Covid-19 as a part of their lives, but they have still yet to lose spirit. Student athletes say they look forward to a season where they can resume the sports that motivate them, bring them together in community, and eventually lead them to lives in college where they continue to play the sports they love.

“As for me my whole life pretty much revolves around the sport, but I guess starting late is better than not starting at all,” Powell said.

Junior softball third baseman, Allissa Bales agrees.

“The uncertainty of our softball season is scary but not unbearable,” Bales said.

 “It sucks knowing that at any time we could be in our season and have it all be cancelled again, but having a little hope for our season is keeping the softball spirit alive.”

The return of sports for Foothill High’s students gives them hope, purpose, and motivation to continue looking forward to the day where they can return to the field. They are pushing forward in optimism, and they hold the beliefs of what it means to be a Foothill Mustang to heart, while they continue in hope. 

Though they wait to hear when sports games will resume, the athletes say they understand the safety that must come first.

“I feel like our school should do everything in its power to keep the kids that go there safe, so I enjoy all the safety precautions,” Junior Girls Basketball Center, Jada McClay, said.

In the midst of Covid-19, Foothill Highs student athletes still make the choice to have optimism not only for themselves but for their community. 

“The cancellation of the baseball season from COVID-19 was difficult because the baseball team was finally getting close and we were making plans to bond as a team,” senior baseball outfielder, Landon Wagner said.

“And Covid-19 just ripped us all apart in a way.” 

“The possible return of sports, I feel like it is a good idea especially since it’s a good way for teenagers to get away and have a good time,” Wagner said. 

 “I think it’ll be good for everyone, especially with all the negativity that’s going on in the world.”

The student athletes of Foothill reflect not only how Covid-19 has affected them personally, but that of their teams and community. The athletes stay steadfast in hope in spite of the pandemic that holds uncertainties for their return to sports. While Covid-19 has impacted many communities across the country, the Foothill High athletes still seek to bring theirs back together.

*** This story originally appeared on the SacCounty Breeze