Volleyball During Covid

At a scrimmage during the 2020 pre season, number 54 scores a kill

At a scrimmage during the 2020 pre season, number 54 scores a kill

       I have been playing volleyball for almost eight years, and as expected, this season has become something straight out of a nightmare. I haven’t taken a true off season since I was eleven, and this year was going to be a crucial year for me, as lots of recruiting for college happens late Sophomore year and during Junior year. I’ve been working as hard as I can this preseason, trying to get as much play time in as I can, to get as good as I can before the tournaments start. 

       Conifer is a 3a school for volleyball, meaning there aren’t as many opportunities for players to get seen by college coaches, so I have focused my efforts on club volleyball. It’s a great opportunity for me to be seen by coaches. I play for a club that offers travel tournaments that lead to qualifications for nationals. This means that college coaches have the option to look at a huge group of players all at the same time.

       One of these tournaments is held during March here in Colorado and is also the second biggest tournament in the country for junior volleyball players, second to only nationals. The tournament was going to be held March 14th-16th of this year, but as most of us remember everything was shut down March 13th. I had been looking forward to that tournament for months.

       I had emailed dozens of coaches my schedule and had even heard back from a few that they were planning to come watch at least one of my games, and instead I had to send out old footage of me playing at local tournaments, which just isn’t the same. But there was nothing I could do about that, so I kept working and did my best to get on the court as much as I could, safely.

       Moving forward to this season, I was planning on playing high school volleyball as well as club as the seasons are at different times; high school is in the fall (August – late October) and club starts just after and goes through the summer (November – June). This means I could do both without having to choose which practices I went to, nor miss any games. 

       This of course was another plan that was thrown out the window.

       High school volleyball got moved to the Spring, and Club volleyball was forced to move their tournaments to the Fall. The problem is that Colorado was one of only five states to move school sports to the spring, meaning that the national tournaments, and the tournaments most important for recruiting purposes, will still be in the spring. 

       No one knows how it will work out, or if it even will. Will high school games be moved to weekends to allow for clubs to still practice? Will club practices be cut down to only once a week to accommodate high school players? Will anyone be able to play both? And most importantly, if players have to choose between them which will they choose?

       For me this was a very hard decision and still is, if I still have a choice in the matter. As Covid cases go up, it seems that things are getting shut down again and I’ve been experiencing it firsthand at my volleyball club as the state struggles to keep the tournaments going. 

       The very first thing that happened, back in August, was the tournaments for club got moved to the fall, which no one was expecting and practices started up very quickly after the announcement came out. 

       This meant that the preseason was cut down from three months to about four weeks. My club practices two or three times a week, meaning we had ten practices to get ready for the season.

       This was a huge shock to me as I’ve always had time to get used to the new team and the new schedule, but this time I didn’t have that luxury, and on top of that I had moved to a new club and was on a team of people I’d never met before. 

       The next thing that happened was, of course, the mask mandate, and on top of that restrictions on the number of people allowed in a room.

       Those were easy enough adjustments for me. The mask took some getting used to, and wearing them while working out sucks sometimes, but they are manageable enough. The room restrictions we got around by having fewer teams practice at the same time, and having teams get ready in a separate room. 

       Those were the easy restrictions. Next came the cleaning, which was much harder to get used to. My club practices in a warehouse, and now as of every practice we have to spray down the courts, volleyballs, and any other equipment we use. 

       This means everything takes an extra ten minutes at the beginning of practice and the end to set up or take down. This means working out has to be done with as little equipment as possible. This means sometimes, when I dive on the court, I stand up with cleaning spray on my shirt.

       These were the things that took getting used to. The things I have yet to get used to.

       Next came what we call our ‘Covid curtain.’ This is a massive sheet we have put up between the courts so that our space has more ‘rooms’. The change wasn’t one that I expected to struggle with yet, I did. It was hard not seeing other teams, and feeling cut off from the rest of the club.

       Those weren’t the worst. The worst has been tournaments. The restrictions put on spectators, guidelines for when you’re not on the court, and on top of that the waiting to see if the tournament will actually happen.

       I had expected the spectator restrictions to be put in place, as fewer people in a space lowers possible spikes, but I didn’t expect to only be allowed one spectator per team. Only one parent is allowed along in the gym with each team, and most of the time they have to be trained in first aid and be able to live stream the tournament. For me, it means my parents won’t be able to go to games, as my father isn’t trained in first aid, and my mother isn’t sure about live streaming.

       The guidelines were next, and I would much rather do without them. No food is allowed inside to limit the amount of time people are without masks. The problem with this is that tournaments are around eight hours, and you play for at least three of those hours. Not eating isn’t an option.

       This might have been okay if we were allowed to leave the building to eat and come back, but you can’t leave and then come back inside. 

       We have learned to sustain ourselves on power bars and other small snacks that can be taken in with our backpacks and eaten in seconds. By the end of a tournament I often feel drained and struggle to play my best through the end of the games.

       Right now, though, none of that matters. As of November 11th all RMR tournaments (all of the club volleyball tournaments in Colorado) are cancelled. They are being delayed until further notice, which doesn’t give me much hope.

       There were too many cases, which caused the gyms to shut down, to continue. Practices are still allowed and there is some hope, though minimal, that tournaments will be rescheduled and play will resume.

       Practices are also being put on hiatus, my club having extended our Thanksgiving break. But I’m worried it’s going to be all too similar to March when our spring break got ‘extended’. Rescheduling doesn’t seem like a solution to me, it feels like something that just won’t happen.

       Even if it does there’s no telling how this is going to affect high school volleyball, and if I will be able to play both. Honestly, I’m just hoping that I get to play. I’m hoping March doesn’t happen all over again where major tournaments are cancelled the day before. 

       Mostly I’m just hoping that I’m still allowed into a gym to play volleyball, even if it doesn’t lead to me playing nationally. Volleyball is such a large part of my life. If it gets shut down again I’m not sure what I’m going to do.