Fall Sports Season Commences

Fall+Sports+Season+Commences

Emma Sandstrom, Managing Editor

On Friday, September 18th, the Mount Greylock fall sports season commenced. Mount Greylock is one of the three teams in Berkshire County who are allowing athletics, though there are several safety regulations that make things look slightly different than years past.

No matter the sport, it is required that athletes wear a mask at all times. Junior Alex Axt of the golf team said, “Practices are for sure different this year, but the main difference is obviously the having to wear a mask at all times which I understand, but it is super annoying.” 

Wearing a mask while engaging in physical activity has proved to be a new challenge. Senior captain Emma Hayward of the volleyball team said, “Wearing the mask makes it incredibly difficult to breathe, especially when we are constantly running around and already out of breath.”

For the cross country team, athletes are split into pods of 7-10 who will run together for the entire season. The pods will not mix as to avoid contact with large groups of people. 

Hazel Scullin, senior cross country captain, said, “Our Coach expressed to us how difficult it was to make the pods. Hillary had to make her decision based on ability, but also keeping in mind friendships so every runner could be happy with their group.”

The team will conduct their warm ups and workouts synchronously, but each athlete will remain in the six foot boxes that are spray painted in the grass island in the bus loop. While at practice, the runners must wear masks at all times. 

Cross country is one of the few sports that will be competing as well as practicing, six scheduled meets this season. Scullin said, “Each race is a dual meet meaning that only two teams will be racing against each other so we can minimize the number of runners.” The actual format of the races has yet to be decided. Scullin adds another unprecedented challenge: having to hand select runners who get to compete. She said, “Another challenge is that we have to bring an equal number of runners as the school hosting the meet.” This is difficult for the Mount Greylock team, as they have the largest team in the country, consisting of 45 runners. This means that if the school they are racing has only 20 runners, Mount Greylock can only bring 20 runners as well.

During the races athletes will not need to wear a mask, unless passing another runner on the course. 

Despite the unconventionality of the season, athletes and coaches alike are looking forward to some in person interaction.  Scullin said, “The girls on the cross country team are some of my best friends and I’ve missed being able to see them on a daily basis. Despite all the restrictions and rules that we have to abide by, we’ve had such a great time in the last week being together.” 

Cross Country girls’ coach Hilary Greene said, “We have five amazing seniors this season who have contributed so much to this team over the years. Since so much is upin the air about whether we can have gatherings like a season-ending banquet, we will definitely have to get super-creative about how we let our seniors know how much we respect and appreciate them.”

In other sports, working in pods has made it difficult to experience the team atmosphere that is so important to so many athletes. Delaney Babcock, co-captain of the girls’ soccer team, said, “It has been hard to be “together” during a time we are supposed to be apart. When Coach yells ‘bring it in’, we all space out enough to cover half the soccer field. This is a challenge for all student-athletes. But together, we are learning as we go and coming up with creative ways to continue the success of our team.”

Hayward said, “One of the toughest parts of this season has been not being able to do the big team stuff this year. Especially since I am a senior, I wish I could engage with my entire team so we could be like one big family.”

Will Starenko, senior boys soccer co captain, praises his coaches for their effort in this tough time. He said, “Practices have been limited contact with no heading, but coaches have done a great job creating competitive, fun, and safe practices for the 40+ players we have on the soccer team.” He added that wearing masks is the biggest challenge because they are difficult to breathe in, but the players are “getting used to them so I think wearing them won’t be much of an issue moving forward.”

Head girls’ soccer coach Tom Othestimer said, “We’ve been having a great time with each other so far. Our practices definitely provide a fun escape from all that is happening in our lives.  Being together and playing soccer feels like therapy.”

When at soccer practice, athletes must wear masks at all times and throw-ins have been replaced by kick ins. Headers and slide tackles have also been disallowed. Small scrimmages will take the place of “real” games until later in the year. Both the boys and girls teams have been provided with the opportunity to play for the Berkshire County Soccer League once a week. 

Othestimer said, “We played our first ‘big game’ last Saturday against Pittsfield and came out the winning side 10-1.”  

A common struggle for student athletes this year is the inability to have real competitions against other schools, which is a “huge part of the student-athlete experience” as Volleyball player Alyssa Phelps mentioned. 

Starenko said, “I’m just frustrated that we aren’t able to have the Western Mass tournament, but I am thankful that we get a season at all. I’m also upset that there are limited spots for fans to watch us play.” 

Axt echoed this statement: “I’m upset that there will be no Western Mass this year because it doesn’t give the team anything to really work for in my opinion, so it is hard to stay motivated.”

Golf, along with cross county, is one of the few sports that are allowed competition with other schools. Axt says, “It’s difficult to find courses to host out matches,” but he is “looking forward to just having the opportunity to play against other kids in the county.” However, meets will be looking different this season. Rather than their usual one vs one matches, this year they will have five large meets with five other schools attending. Golfers will be “very spread out from one another” to prevent the spread of COVID-19

The Mount Greylock Volleyball team has similar regulations to the soccer team. Masks must be worn at all times, athletes must remain six feet apart, and blocking is no longer permitted. 

For the first three days of practice, the team was split into two groups for “Assessment Week.” Coach Greg Geyer described assessment week as “A few days where I can just look at how the players are doing and what skills they need to work on so that I can later put them in the correct pod.” Phelps, senior captain of the volleyball team, said, “So far, it has been a lot of fun. We start practicing in our pods of ten players this week.”

 

The volleyball team is unable to compete in games until the spring. Volleyball is especially difficult  to regulate because every player is touching the same ball and it is played indoors. In practice, the players have been assigned a partner, and a partner ball that they will use for the whole practice. After practice, each ball is thoroughly sanitized.

 

Hayward says, “I am definitely bummed out that we won’t have games for a while, but I understand that having lots of people in an enclosed space is a bad idea right now.” Phelps added, “It is also sad because it is our senior season and we were really looking forward to fun games as seniors.” 

The fall sports season has officially begun, despite looking like nothing we have ever seen before.