COVID causes major changes for athletes in 2020-21 winter season

The 2020 winter sports season is looking quite different from past winters, as Dana Hall continues to make Covid-friendly adjustments this year. This season is slightly more complicated than the Fall because of being indoors and its limited space. The athletics staff has been working hard to create the opportunity for basketball, squash, swimming and diving, and fencing to run as smoothly as possible. 

With sports now inside, Athletic Director Rebecca Kimball and the Dana Hall athletics staff are making changes because of smaller practice spaces and the extra safety precautions that have to be taken. They had to come up with new ideas because many of the new guidelines they need to instate weren’t required in the Fall season, when practices were outside. “Locker rooms are shut down, but we’ve created sections where teams will maintain their locations,” Ms. Kimball stated. “We have identified hallways which each team will use.” She also explained that there will be extra morning and evening cleaners, as well as more HEPA filters placed around the building. 

Unlike the Fall, there are plans in place for JV and Varsity teams in the Winter. Tryouts for day students were held before Thanksgiving break, and there will be a second session of tryouts for boarding students if they choose to return to campus at the start of 2021. Each sport broke up their tryouts into different sessions so that there were fewer people in each space at a time. Ms. Kimball wants to commingle the two cohorts, bringing grades 9 through 12 together, and if teams contain 20 members or fewer, she can do this.

The squash team ran tryouts by having each person run through individual drills alone in the courts. Although playing with an opponent is a major part of the game, athletes felt that they still benefited from practicing alone. “The individual drills went well since most of us haven’t been able to play,” Ashleigh Burns ’23 remarked. “It was a good few days to warm up and get us in a good rhythm.” She also explained that her worry of her game being affected by wearing masks this season is not too high. “Last season, playing in a mask took getting used to, but now I am comfortable and do not think it will be a challenge.” 

Kali Gill ’23, a swimmer, stated that “the amount of people per tryout group was very small and spread out.” She also added, “we would be wearing our masks until we got into the pool and placed them on individual stools right next to our lanes, so that they were easily accessible once we got out.” 

Basketball player Kate Adams ’23 explained that, in tryouts,  “We focused mostly on individual skills like ball handling and shooting to limit contact with other players.” She expressed that “tryouts were run really well, taking into consideration COVID rules.” 

In regards to games and matches, they “are not out of the picture,” Ms. Kimball announced. There is still a possibility that playing against other schools will happen, although some will be virtually held. “I do think COVID-19 will heavily affect the normality of the swim season, such as doing online meets instead of in person,”  Kali expressed. “However, I think the energy will still be there along with the spirit.” 

Sophia Sahni ’23, a fencer, said she thinks “COVID will affect the team as there might not be any fencing tournaments for us to compete in.” She also explained that international students “are a large part of the Dana fencing team,” and expressed worry about them not being able to return to campus if cases continue to rise. Ms. Kimball  did announce that EIL’s and Squash Nationals were cancelled for this season. 

When reflecting on this past season, Ms. Kimball was proud of the outcome after working hard to achieve a COVID-friendly season. She expressed some positive aspects, in spite of the differences of the season. “Two major things off the top of my head is that there’s been time to teach,” Ms. Kimball said. But she expressed that it was a disappointment for the student-athletes because they were hoping to play more. Although student-athletes were disappointed with the majority of the season being focused on skills and drills, Ms. Kimball expressed that this, in fact, was the best part of the new way of sports, and the athletes were given the opportunity to improve on fundamental ability and strategy, rather than always being focused on competing. 

The Winter season gives the athletic staff the opportunity to start fresh. Although they liked what came out of having student-athletes focusing on practicing last season, they are looking forward to creating teams and hopefully having more games this Winter.

Photo: Masked-up for playing squash.

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