Winter Sports Continue Competitions Amid New COVID Challenges

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Amy Lauderbaugh

Padua swimmers prepare to dive into the water. Spectators were limited under new COVID safety protocols.

Winter sports have returned, and with them an increase in COVID cases. Despite the new coronavirus wave, sports teams continue to practice and compete. However, they must follow stricter health and safety rules, and teams face a variety of obstacles unique to this season.

Maria Catalina, the cheerleading coach, explained the challenges of coaching during a pandemic.

“This year, for the winter season, COVID has affected our practices tremendously,” Catalina said. “We have not had a full team practice since the week before Thanksgiving.”

The swim team has also had trouble having full team practices due to COVID, according to Kathleen Benson, one of the coaches for the team.

“We have had team members miss practices and meets due to being COVID positive or being a close contact,” Benson said.

Attendance at practices is not the only thing that winter sports teams have had to face. Ms. Grace Stauffer is the athletic trainer and said that sports this year have many regulations.

“Certain sports have to find ways to socially distance while at practice and games,” Stauffer said. “Athletes cannot have spectators or are only able to bring two spectators.”

A Padua swimmer prepares to dive into the water while her teammates look on. (Amy Lauderbaugh)

Since sports like competitive cheer must start practicing early, Catalina said she did not want COVID to affect their competitions as it did last year. She prefers the “excitement” of competing in person.

“The girls start prepping for competition season and working on skills over the summer,” Catalina said. “However, if it came down to virtual or no season, virtual would be the way to go.”

Catalina mentioned that the thrill of competing in front of a crowd is much different than being online.

“I think the excitement of being in person, having your parents, friends, fans in the stands is such a great motivation and gets the girls excited and fired up,” she said.

Because there are not many spectators or athletes competing, not many people can be present to show their support.

“One of the best things about Padua swimming is how supportive the Padua swimmers are of each other when they are competing,” Benson said.

The indoor track team is also making adjustments to the new rules. This could be a struggle for the track team because of the decline in weather temperatures.

“Indoor track has to run many of their events outside since Delaware does not have an indoor track and out-of-state facilities are hesitant to allow out-of-state teams,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer suggested abiding by all the necessary precautions that have already been put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID.

“What I would say is keep following all recommendations,” Stauffer said, “so we can get back to having normal sports seasons as soon as possible.”