The world of school athletics has been engulfed in uncertainty ever since COVID-19’s prevalence became wide spread, with sports only recently being allowed to resume higher levels of activity.
Of the teams who can vouch for the tenacity of the situation are members of the girls varsity basketball team of Chester Academy, who themselves had a stellar season (even without any audience members being allowed at the games), winning six of the seven games they played.
What follows is a Q&A with three members of the team - Janelle Lopez, Sarah Mliyko and Julia Cassano.
When asked to reflect on the season:
Janelle Lopez (age 16, grade 11, jersey number 3)
“I get nervous really easily, so not playing with an audience kind of felt better than last year when we had a full audience. I think we did really good, especially since the team was a mix of JV and varsity. I thought in the beginning of the year that we’d have a struggle winning, but we had good chemistry.”
Janelle Lopez (age 17, grade 12, jersey number 22)
“They (the school) streamed the games online, which was good. It was weird without an audience, but good in a sense since there was less stress. I think we had a really good season, considering we only had a couple of practices before the season started, and that we had a considerably new team.”
Julia Cassano (age 17, grade 12, jersey number 20)
“The game was more apparent without the audience. Everything felt louder and I felt as though the game was clearer without hearing my fellow classmates screaming in the stands. I was very happy with my team’s record, we went 6-1 only losing to the Section A Champion Cornwall.”
When asked if they would’ve played the same season without COVID:
Sarah Mliyko: “I’d probably live with what’s already happened because of the memories that I’ve already made during COVID-19.”
Julia Cassano: “This season was very memorable. I was given the privilege to be the Team Captain and although it was a shortened season, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
When asked how they balanced school and basketball:
Janelle Lopez: “I’m fully remote, so it was a lot easier because I didn’t have to worry about attending school classes or immediately doing homework.”
Sarah Mliyko: “I definitely felt like they (the teachers) were giving us more work than they would have without COVID, probably because of the curriculum they have to work with. That being said, it wasn’t that bad.”
Julia Cassano: “I found it easier to balance because doing school remotely gave me time to finish my work before practices and games.”
When asked to give advice to younger athletes and students:
Janelle Lopez: “If you’re having trouble with school, just ask your coaches for help. Ours were pretty understanding about school and missing some practices for work.”
Sarah Mliyko: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it sounds silly and generic, but you asking for help can make all the difference, whether it’s related to school work or mental health. Make the most out of what you’re given, because even if it’s not what you expected, it can still turn out pretty good.”
Julia Cassano: “I would say just to keep playing. Having the athletics again gives us a sense of normalcy during this crazy time. It allowed me to get closer with my teammates who I otherwise wouldn’t have seen without sports.”
All three athletes also thanked their teammates as well as Head Coach Lindsay Rock and Assistant Coach Alonso.