By MAKAYLA NAIME and ALLISON STOCKHAM
COVID-19 has put all sports on a pause and many people are missing the action out on the court, but with cases now going down and conditions improving, sports might finally be allowed to start their season. Volleyball, an orange-tiered sport, is one of the first high school sports to start their journey to getting back into shape and being allowed to play again. Although, club volleyball has already started this journey, practicing outside safely and even having a few games and tournaments.
Dustin Fujiwara, director and coach of Redlands Renegade Volleyball Club, shares his input on the situation. He says it has been harder for the team to practice during COVID-19 as they had to find ways to be safe and still practice effectively. His team has been distancing themselves by playing outside and while constantly wearing masks and taking breaks to sanitize and check temperatures throughout practices and games. Players are not as motivated lately due to the stay at home order, “so as coaches [they] have to work on that mental side of it,” which can be difficult to do. Large crowds are no longer allowed at games, Fujiwara says, “maybe one parent per player.” After a game the teams cannot high five or hug each other. He also mentions that their “referee crews have been minimized as well, so [there are] only two per game when there would be four to five.”
This year has been different due to wearing masks, distancing and sanitizing constantly, but on top of that, the team now also has to practice outside on the grass rather than in a gym, which has definitely made practices and games much more difficult. Fujiwara says that “tournaments and game COVID policy is different every month and [it is] hard to stay on top of it.” He says that this year has definitely been harder because of all of these rules. They had to buy supplies and come up with a protocol which they had to make sure was okay with USA volleyball and that parents felt safe with it.
Renegade volleyball players Samantha Fujiwara and Jordyn Vasquez getting in the zone as they start their first set during their 15-U tournament. Everyone’s excited to be back on the court cheering on their team and working together again. (Photo credit Renegade Volleyball Club)
Competitions were finally able to resume on January 25, but this was only the case for some sports. Sports in California are organized into four different colored tiers, purple, red, orange and yellow. Purple consists mostly of outdoor, low-contact sports while yellow is made up of indoor sports with either high or moderate contact. The red tier is outdoor sports with moderate contact and orange includes outdoor sports with high contact and indoor sports with low contact. Volleyball is in the orange tier under outdoor, high-contact sports. Most sports that were in the purple or the red tier were able to begin competing again on the 25th.
Haley Bond, a member of Envision Volleyball Club and a freshman looking to play in high school says, “Yes, I do feel like COVID-19 has made many things difficult.” With COVID-19, club volleyball has been different from previous seasons. “Last year we were able to practice inside and not wear masks and participate in tournaments every month,” says Bond “but now we practice outside, wear masks and just started joining tournaments again.” Additionally, all teammates play on grass at parks instead of inside courts, always wear masks and get constant temperature checks in order to play instead of continuing their long break.
When California allows orange tiered sports like volleyball to play, high school teams will have to carefully follow rules in order to keep their season going. Keeping masks on at all times even if it causes hard breathing, have small crowds with only family who live in the same house as players and only travel for frames within a close distance. Additionally with volleyball being inside, crowds will be controlled and limited to possibly only players and coaches. However, high school players aren’t going to let these rules affect their experience.
“High school volleyball has pretty much been the same as club volleyball, we’re practicing outside, wearing masks and safely staying six feet apart.” However, the high school experience has been “different but fun so far,” according to Bond. High school volleyball has been doing the best they can for their players, hosting “fun practices every week and tryouts until we know if [there is] going to [be] a season.” One of the most important things to start volleyball is tryouts. Bond feels like tryouts have been easier due to the fact they were outside and there might not even be a season in the first place.
Renegade’s blocker, Sidney Chaves working on her blocking under the lights during practice on their outside court. Coaches are excited to get back but are still keeping safety as a priority. (Photo credit Renegade Volleyball Club)
Bond stated, “I feel like everyone did a really good job considering the circumstances we’re under, but inside on a real court our success rates could’ve been higher.” Bond is hoping for a season, but until California reaches the orange tier, that won’t be possible.
The new season will be a different season for most players, as the spread of COVID-19 increases and puts all at risk. However, teams can form new, special bonds over the difficulties they might come across, ultimately forming an even stronger team. These bonds will allow teams to overcome all battles to ensure their best season yet.
Team member Jordyn Vasquez hitting the ball over the net during Renegades 15-U tournament hoping to score a point. The set was a close one but Renegades was able to put in their all and win the set. (Photo credit Renegade Volleyball Club)