How OIHS Sports Have Changed During COVID-19

Leonai lunges for the ball while continuing to follow COVID safety guidelines / Photographer: Portia White

This past year has been a year like no other. Last March, Orcas Island High School closed its doors due to the pandemic and turned to a form of online learning. School was not the only aspect of students’ lives that was altered because of COVID. Athletics took a major hit as well. 

Spring sports were just two weeks into their season when they were told they had to halt all athletic activities. Student-athletes still had hope that they would return to school and sports after the six-week period the state was projecting schools to be closed for. After the six weeks were nearing the end, it was decided that school would not be returning in-person for the remainder of the year and along with it, sports.

After a few months had passed and summer had begun, the state began moving forward in reopening and reevaluating gatherings, including what to do with sports. It was decided that small pods of five could gather in the gym and all players could attend any outdoor practices as long as they were socially distanced, wearing masks, and not using any of the same equipment. It was hard to adjust to these changes for many athletes. However, they were willing to do whatever it took to be able to get back out and play. As more information was rolled out on how to prevent the spread of COVID, rules were adjusted to meet more of the needs of student-athletes.

The plan had been for school to start back up in a hybrid model towards the very beginning of the school year. However, the start date for the high school continued to be pushed back, and with it, the start of sports. It was decided by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) that the start of the sports seasons would begin in February. However, teams and coaches were allowed to hold practices that met the guidelines set. These rules evolved as the months went on in regards to sharing equipment and how many people could be in the gym at a time. There was a period where sports at OIHS were forced to stop during the fall of 2020 when there were COVID cases reported at the elementary school and they reclosed their doors. After a few weeks, and everything was settled, high school athletics were allowed to reconvene their practices, but the number of people allowed in the gym was reduced back to pods of five.

With the start of the new year, that meant the proposed start date of athletic seasons was approaching. It was decided by OIHS and other schools in the league that they would follow this order of seasons: spring sports, fall sports, and finally, winter sports. For Orcas, this meant that the first season would consist of golf, baseball, and softball. When the season officially began towards the end of February, Orcas had only been allowed to hold regular practices; games had not been approved. It was later decided that games could begin on March 13th, one year after the last day of on-campus school, as the high school would be starting hybrid schooling on March 15th.

For the month of March, all three teams were competing in matches and games against teams on island as well as making trips off-island. It was a shorter season than usual, only six weeks. However, the students made the best out of it after a year away from the field and two years since their last competition.

After the 2021 spring sports season drew to a close, it was time for fall sports to get up and running. For Orcas, this meant the start of soccer, volleyball, and cross country. Along with the first season, fall sports lasted a total of six weeks, overlapping a week with spring sports. All three teams quickly got into competition in order to play as many games and compete in as many meets as possible. Because volleyball is an indoor sport, more protocols were taken in order to keep players and coaches safe, this included limiting the spectators, so all of the home games and most of the away games were streamed live on the internet for anyone to be able to watch.

As this article is being written, the proposed start date for winter sports (boys and girls basketball) is May 10th, with another season that will also last six weeks. At this time, it is unsure what all of the protocols will be, but they will probably be fairly similar to volleyball as it is also an indoor sport, meaning limited spectators.

Orcas Vikings spent months of preparation on seasons that they were not sure were going to become a reality, and it showed as competitions were allowed to resume in March of 2021, a year after the United States began to shut down. The community was there to support them at games, by watching live streams and in many other ways as they found their way back to the court, the field, the green, the pitch, and the track.

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