Athletes and coaches face hurdle of COVID-19

Senior+Lexi+Buzzell+steps+up+to+the+line+for+a+shooting+foul+against+West+Bend+East+while+her+team+sits+%28socially+distanced%29+behind+her.

Senior Lexi Buzzell steps up to the line for a shooting foul against West Bend East while her team sits (socially distanced) behind her.

Through new rules and regulations, Homestead athletics have changed by the challenges that COVID-19 has brought throughout the year.

In March of 2020, COVID-19 first started to have its impacts. It started with quarantine and online school for students and the year continued with sports overcoming the constraints of the deadly virus.

Not only did COVID influence the progression of sports but also the athletes’ and coaches’ mental and physical performance in their sport. Erich Hinterstocker, athletic director, is experiencing these challenges head-on. Planning and replanning sporting events and reinforcing COVID regulations has become a frequent occurrence. “Scheduling in certain sports has definitely taken more time. As a conference, we’ve gone through four different versions of a wrestling schedule this winter and need to finalize revisions this week for the remainder of the season,” Hinterstocker said.

Although he knows everyone wishes to play the sport they love, he knows safety is the number one thing necessary. Therefore, having to make those limiting decisions has made his role even harder.“In order for us to do our best to keep everyone safe and continuing to participate in athletics, it has to be the primary focus at this time,” Hinterstocker said.

The past spring season of 2020 was a challenge for the Homestead Highlanders. COVID was just starting to hit and everyone was apprehensive about their upcoming sports season. The virus was still new at this time creating even more stress for the players and coaches with little knowledge.

For varsity girls soccer head coach, Kelly Denk and the rest of the girls soccer team, their season was cancelled all around. The girls were looking forward to their last year as a Highlander and others, their first. Although the girls could not physically be with each other,they were virtually staying connected. “All the girls still wrote a letter to each senior and we still made senior shirts and did team Zooms and Zoom trivia games,” Coach Denk said.

Starting back in the fall of 2020, boys golf, girls swim and dive, girls and boys cross country, and more were all considered low contact sports, allowing them to start their season earlier. Chloe Sileno, senior, was a key contributor for girls varsity golf last fall. Fortunately, Sileno and the rest of the girls golf team were able to begin practicing for their season back in August.

Even though golf is relatively socially distanced, she explained that the girls were instructed to wear masks while traveling and after games, and they could not touch the pin when getting their balls. The team still tried their best to remain close, despite the restrictions keeping them physically apart. “It made us look out for each other a little more,” Sileno said.

At the start of September 2020, the sports that were viewed as closer contact were able to start practicing. These included but weren’t limited to boys soccer, boys football and girls dance. Khristian Hoard and Jacob Bakalinsky, sophomores, were excited to get to play in their second season on boys varsity soccer. Last March, the soccer team was not able to practice and continued through the summer with limited workouts, making the ability to stay in shape challenging.

When the season started a few months later, the athletes were happy to play together, eve nwith required masks and a limit of spectators able to watch their games. “We weren’t able to have the critical bonding activities that we had the prior year, but we were all willing to put the team first,” Hoard explained. Despite all the uncertainty, the team still kept a positive mindset and were grateful for what was able to happen, helping them have motivation, throughout the season. “I realized to not take your teammates for granted because eventuallythey’ll be in college,” Bakalinsky said.

For the current winter season, things are getting closer to normal. Michael Birmingham, sophomore, began his second year on the boys varsity hockey team with high anticipation. After a lot of schedule changes from the original plan and many contact traced quarantines, the boys were finally able to get back on the ice. The players were required to wear masks under their helmets, due to regulations put in place, but still remained in high spirits together with simple motivation. “COVID has not changed our team’s relationship; we are still a bunch of teenage boys trying to win,” Birmingham said.

Moreover, basketball has taken off as well. Lexi Buzzell, senior, and the rest of the varsity girls basketball team were excited for the chance to play no matter the conditions. Despite wearing masks, there have been many other changes in the game of basketball for the girls. For instance, in the summer when nobody was allowed to play together indoors, Zoom basketball workouts were held to prepare for the season to come.

While trying their best to keep themselves safe, they have to worry about the other teams doing the same. “As of now, just one game has been postponed because of a team getting COVID-19, but we are expecting to make that up,” Buzzell said. There is a lot of pressure on the girls this year to stay safe to not only protect themselves and their family but also to protect their teammates and opponents so they can continue on with their season. “With everything going on now, my attitude towards sports is more appreciative. It’s easy to complain about having to go to practice, but now my teammates and I look at it as an opportunity. We are lucky we are able to still see eac hother everyday and work hard, get better, and play the sport we love,” Buzzell said.

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