Hannah Nguyen and Prasham Jobanputra
TOWAMENCIN — Malcolm Gladwell once said that ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness. Essentially, time is important, and in the world of sports, it’s everything. When winter sports were put on a pause for the time being, many of the athletes were faced with the issue of losing what would’ve been time spent improving on their sport.
“I wasn’t surprised by any means. I was definitely disappointed but kind of understood and was actually anticipating it with the increase in numbers [of COVID-19 cases] and the cold and flu months that were in during the indoor season,” boys track and field coach Jaimey Jones said. “Although I was optimistic and wanted to have a season, I knew the actual reality of that would be extremely tough to pull off.”
For many members of the track and field team, this is their second season that has been interrupted. Those who were a part of the spring team last year were already familiar with the situation they’re now being placed in.
Since the spring season was canceled last year, the track and field team already had a system in place that they knew they could follow again. They receive messages from Remind and daily workouts from Google Classroom. They’ll post their times on Google Classroom, similar to submitting an assignment for gym class. They also go into Google Meets to do workouts as a group.
“We constantly send them messages and we send them workouts to do. We’re getting ready to have a couple of team challenges,” Jones said. “We tested them before we left, and when we finally come back, we’re going to test them again to make sure they are at, or better than, the same fitness level.”
“One of the things we’ll be doing is a fundraiser we have coming up. It’s called our Run a THON. Normally, we go and we get pledges for each lap they do inside of 60 minutes. Now, they’re going to get pledges for each mile they complete inside of 60 minutes. That right there is a good barometer to see where we are fitness-wise,” Jones said.
Many events that require a lot of high levels of skill and specific equipment, like pole vault, will be difficult to replicate at home.
“It’s not like you go outside and there’s a pickup pole game. It’s not like you have a pole mat and runway out in your backyard. That’s a skill that kids have to learn,” Jones said. “It takes time, it takes practice, it takes specific facilities and equipment in order to practice that and practice it well. We’re probably going to be a little bit behind in events like that. All of these technical events that take a lot of time and coaching and specific equipment stuff you can’t replicate at home or virtually.”
Coach Jones hopes that the team learns patience from this experience. For the remainder of the season, Coach Jones, as well as the team as a whole, also hopes that they will be able to keep the sport relatively normal, or as normal as it can get.
“There are times where you’re going to have to practice for weeks, months, and, in some cases, years before you see actual results,” Jones said. “I hope they learn patience. I hope they learn a little bit of perseverance. And you know, change happens. You’re going to have to be flexible, we’re going to have to adjust. We’ll find ways to keep them in shape and we’ll find ways to keep them engaged, but it’ll be tough.”
“The number one goal, we spoke about it as a team, is to keep them sharp, keep them fit, give them something to look forward to, even if it’s just practicing and getting together to go out on a run,” Jones said. “The number two goal is to have some form of competition, whether that competition be inside, or most likely it looks like it may have to be outside. The end game is to get them competing a little bit and keep them sharp and ready so that if they do choose to go outside and compete in the very next season, they won’t be far behind and they’ll be in shape. We’re fortunate in that way because we have spring track. Other sports don’t have that option.”
After winter sports were put on a break and many ice rinks were closed for some time, the North Penn Ice Hockey team, like other winter sports, lost opportunities to practice. So far, they’ve only had one practice.
While the team isn’t given specific workouts to do, they’re expected to keep up with the usual offseason regimen, which consists of stickhandling, bike rides, runs, and weightlifting.
Although the players aren’t getting the usual practice time on the ice, senior Ryan Cunningham remains optimistic for the rest of the season.
“We’re in the same boat as basically all the other teams. We’re one of the stronger teams every year. We’ll probably have an edge coming out of it because we’re pretty good and we have a lot of returning players, but it’ll definitely hurt everybody as a whole, especially just team play since we don’t get to work on our systems,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham hopes that, despite the circumstances, the team will still get to play.
“I just want to be able to play the full season. And obviously, you want to win—you want to win state tournament—but just actually completing the season and winning the league would be nice,” Cunningham said
With gyms closing and sports being put on hold, junior Will Morrow knew that his ability to practice wrestling would be limited but has been working around the situation to ensure that he remains on top of his game for the time being.
“I kind of expected this to happen. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, I was more disappointed. Last year I made the state tournament, but I didn’t play,” Morrow said. “We had some big goals this year and getting a little glimpse at that might not be able to happen that postseason. With how hard I worked in this offseason throughout the summer lifting, practicing, eating right—doing all the necessary things to be the best I can be, it’s going to be disappointing if I can’t put that all out on the mat.”
Although the gyms are currently closed, Morrow is fortunate to have a lifting set in his basement. He is also able to practice with a small group of friends a few times a week.
The wrestling team has only had one practice so far, and it wasn’t the most desirable experience. Since wrestling is a sport that requires a ton of contact, it was definitely frustrating to follow basic COVID-19 protocols.
During that one practice they had, they wore masks, had hand sanitizer breaks, limited the amount of practice partners they had, and remained socially distanced to the best of their abilities.
“With the masks, our coaches couldn’t run a practice as hard as they normally would because it’s impossible. If we ran a practice as we normally would, we wouldn’t be able to keep our masks on because people would pass out,” Morrow said.
By missing out on the benefits of practicing as a team, Morrow is unable to receive immediate feedback on how he’s doing. When he’s wrestling on his own time with his friends, he doesn’t have a coach to guide him and to provide their input like he would if he was practicing in person.
This season is unlike any other season for Morrow. Looking back, he misses having a traditional season where he would be doing the things he would normally do.
“At this time last year I’m usually losing weight and eating better for tournaments. I knew that there would be a day where I wouldn’t have to cut weight anymore. I just didn’t expect it to be this year,” Morrow said. “Snapchat has a memories thing and I do see pictures popping up from all the tournaments that I was at and all the other lunches and breakfasts we would have with the team after a big tournament or stuff like that. It’s just really nostalgic that we were completely fine last year having a normal season and now this year, it’s all taken away.”
Morrow plans to continue wrestling in college and with this year being an important year, he hopes he could get the most out of it.
“I hope that we get back and have some competitions and then a postseason because I really want to do well, especially for college,” Morrow said. “This year is a big year for me, and of course, they’re going to have to take into consideration that this wasn’t a normal season, but it’s just going to be a lot harder to get myself out there. I’m hoping we can get back and have somewhat of a normal postseason with normal rules and the same competition that we had in previous years.”
Senior Billy Coley was excited for basketball season to begin, but when he received the announcement that the season would be delayed, he immediately felt distraught.
“I felt finally free that we were back and I was just frustrated because we only had one week of practice,” Coley said.
Now that the team is no longer practicing at school, they’ve come up with a plan to ensure that all of the players remain in shape. There are currently three captains: Coley, Josh Jones, and Joey Larkins. Each of them are in charge of their own groups where they would lead them in workouts given to them by the coaches. They all must record a video of themselves doing the workouts to send to the coaches and they also attend meetings every other day or every three days. Additionally, they play on their own time in local parks.
Practicing on their own will definitely affect the team’s chemistry, but Coley remains optimistic and believes that the team will be able to work through it.
Coley hopes to gain more patience from this experience in order to become a better athlete in the future.
“I hope that it’ll give me a better understanding on being patient when things keep being pushed back. I feel like I’m a pretty determined individual, and I always work hard but I hope to gain better fundamental skills on really pushing and going the extra mile and keeping a level head when things get tough and things aren’t going the way I want them to go. I hope to learn to work hard no matter what and kind of just be always trying to be a better person and all,” Coley said.
In previous years, junior Maddie Morosky would look at the whiteboard where the swim team would keep track of the number of practices they’ve already had and see well over 100 days worth of practice. Now, when she looks at the board, she only sees 7 days of practice in the past few weeks.
“It’s not even like we have a season anymore because it’s so back and forth with practicing. The swim team is like a family. We’re all super close and we’re always doing stuff together. We can’t even go in the locker room. That’s where we decorate our posters. We haven’t had any swim meets and I feel like some of the freshmen don’t even know who the seniors are. We haven’t elected a captain. We’re all in assigned lanes, so I haven’t even met the people on the other side of the pool because we never get to talk. We never get to see each other. We used to do like a ton of team bonding. We had morning practices, night practices, and weekend practices, and we don’t do any of that. We’re not on the buses together. We used to have breakfasts and team dinners like pasta parties. We don’t get to do any of that this year because we can’t be with each other. We can’t have contact,” Morosky said.
Earlier in the year when the team couldn’t come into the building for practice, many had to go to the YMCA or other local pools to practice. Now, with many gyms closing and the school not allowing athletes to come in and practice, it’s even more difficult for the athletes to find places to swim and weight train.
We’re definitely afraid that we’re going to lose progress. We went to a practice one day and we swam a bunch of events, and we were able to see our times in comparison to where we were last year. A lot of people were not at the level they were at this point last year and our coach was like ‘it kind of shows how this has affected you, but you can use it as motivation to get to where you were.’ A lot of people are scared to lose their progress, but they are fighting to stay in shape to not lose it as much,” Morosky said.
To ensure that they’re staying in shape, their coach has been sending them messages consisting of constant motivation, daily workouts, and nutrition tips.
Although many of the swimmers are following the daily workouts provided and are going the extra mile by doing additional workouts on their own, it’s definitely not the same as going in the pool and swimming.
“We’re not the track team, we’re the swim team, so it’s definitely different. But you have to make the best of it. We would rather be practicing and getting out and being active and exercising. Anything is better than nothing,” Morosky said.
Having experienced this non-traditional season, Morosky is more appreciative of her sport.
“I definitely learned to not take things for granted. I know all the time you hear people going to practices for whatever sport they do and they’re like, ‘that was awful. I’m so tired,’ but it really comes down to it. You love the sport you play. You want to be active. You do it for a reason. You want to improve. You want to do better. You want to keep practicing. Your team is your family and that being taken away from you is awful,” Morosky said. “It really makes you appreciate things. You don’t realize how much you’ll miss waking up at 5 AM and going to jump in a pool, but you do. When things start to go back to normal, I will be so appreciative and grateful for any little bit of normalcy. I know people say this is the normal new normal and all but anything that can allow us to move forward and get back to how life was before would be good.”