Athletes Keep Training Despite Sports Delay

By Meiyah Go ’22, Isabelle Newson ’21 & Jaja Riley ’22

Due to the pandemic, the start of Immaculate Heart’s fall sports season has been pushed back to winter. However, conditioning has not stopped for IH athletes, who have pushed themselves in virtual workouts for weeks. So how is it for students to train online, without a team?

In interviews with The Bamboo, several students expressed some frustration with remote training, repeatedly describing the experience as challenging and less motivational than practicing with friends and teammates.

Among those missing in-person practices is senior Cleo Riley, who said her volleyball team has been conditioning four times a week over Zoom. The reason she participates in volleyball, she explained, is for the sense of teamwork, which has allowed her to create special bonds with her teammates. Now her fall sport is on hold as she practices on her own.

“It is a bit lonely conditioning alone, especially because volleyball is a team sport,” Riley said. “There are certain aspects of volleyball that can be practiced alone: ball control, foot work, and strength improving exercises, such as squats and lunges, but it’s much different without your teammates encouraging you. One pro is that I am able to work at my own pace, but personally I think it undermines the entire ‘culture’ of volleyball as it is a game so dependent on teamwork,” she said.

Another fall sport delayed is cross country. Junior Victoria Leahy began training for cross country over the summer in Zoom meets. Later, she transitioned to an individual workout, which has made it even harder for her to stay motivated without teammates, she said.

Similarly, senior Laura Gulbinas, who is also on the cross-country team, said, “Overall, I would say that working out with the team was definitely a major source of motivation, so with that gone it has been more difficult.” Practicing without her teammates has not been easy, Gulbinas added. “One major reason I grew to love cross country was that the team felt like a little family, and I met two of my best friends through cross country,” she said.

Gulbinas said she likes that she is now able to listen to music on runs and cut down her workout times, since the cross-country season is now many weeks away. Although she misses the team, she said she chooses to run for other reasons, including to stay healthy. She also gets satisfaction from starting her day productively, she added. This is why she pushes herself to practice, even without teammates by her side, she said. 

Members of other IH sports teams have also made the commitment to virtual workouts. IH athletes in tennis, basketball and soccer have all been training four times a week after school via Zoom or Google Meet. Those interviewed are also looking forward to the day when they can join their teammates in-person.

For example, senior Danielle Lachman said she is trying to get into remote practices, but she has lost motivation since she feels more productive training with her team than on her own. Likewise, sophomore Kellyn Lanza, a member of the soccer team, said practicing her contact sport on her own isn’t the same as playing on the field with her teammates and competitors. Senior Mia Tetrault agreed, but on a positive note, she said, knowing her soccer teammates show up for a remote practice “gives me confidence that our team can overcome anything.”

With Los Angeles County still confronting outbreaks of the Covid-19 virus, the CIF-Southern Section division officially moved the start of the fall sports season for volleyball and cross country to mid and late December dates. For the same reason, winter sports will start later, with soccer and tennis slated to begin in late February. Basketball has been pushed back even further and will resume in March, along with swim, softball and track.

“It is going to be rather hectic after the first of the year when we will have six sports running at the same time, but I have every intention of having all sports continue,” IHHS Athletic Director Maureen Rodriguez said. “It is my wish that we will get all of the athletes competing with their specific team this school year,” she stressed.

Whether the teams will actually get to compete remains uncertain, however. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that CIF-SS allows us to compete, but every school in our league is just as anxious,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone is doing virtual workouts, and some schools will soon be starting outdoor workouts on campus.”

Rodriguez said she’s currently working on protocols for the return of each sport in the winter, but she’s also planning ways that will safely bring small groups of IH Pandas together soon for outdoor training on campus.

Recently, the IH cross-country team began early morning weekday runs in Griffith Park. Rodriguez now hopes to purchase an outdoor net that would be placed on the turf so a few volleyball players will be able to practice at a time. Starting October 10, she’s planning to have small, rotating groups of soccer players condition and train on the upper turf each Saturday.

“All of the sports have been practicing just to keep the girls in shape and somewhat connected to everyone,” Rodriguez said. “My focus now is getting the sports to start back up again, and I feel confident that this will happen with time.

“I’m trying to stay as positive as possible,” she added.

Caption: Laura Gulbinas ’21, shown competing in a league cross-country event last year, looks forward to competing this year but at a later date, now that CIF-SS has delayed the start of fall sports because of the pandemic.  (Photo credit: Callie Webb)

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