Travel sports teams forced to make accommodations for the pandemic

Freshman Michael Prem plays with his travel baseball team during the pandemic.

photo contributed by Michael Prem

Freshman Michael Prem plays with his travel baseball team during the pandemic.

Kayla Radler, Staff Writer

When travel teams have tournaments, they compete in different counties depending on how far they make it in the tournament, but due to COVID-19, these tournaments have been affected.  Traveling for a high school sports team can be the highlight of an athlete’s year, however, this year, their traveling experience is limited. The way the games are normally played has changed as a result of the pandemic. 

“The games are different because when we are not on the field, like in the dugout, we have to stay six feet apart and go into the stands,” freshman and baseball player Micheal Prem said.

Players now have to distance themselves from their teammates and limit physical contact, due to the new guidelines for practices and games. Gyms are also closed now, which is limiting the amount of proper equipment players have access to.

“I would say that it is definitely harder to practice,” Prem said. “We used to be able to go out and practice with friends. Now most places are closed. We used to be able to hug and high five and do whatever. Now we can’t do any of that.”

For some, the practices have been completely eliminated, while for others, games are being changed so that athletes can stay safe. For example, travel softball uses hand sanitizer, wears masks and goes into the bleachers and not the dugout. 

“[Practices] are the same as the games,” freshman softball player Noel Lackey said. “We don’t do as many close contact drills. We are not one hundred percent when we have to tag someone out. They take our temperatures. I think that the guidelines that they have are close to perfect,” freshman softball player Noel Lackey said.  

The players are still getting used to the regulations.  The Virginia Elite travel volleyball team is having parents stay in the car during practices and games. They are only allowing the coaches and players into the building. Everyone is required to wear a mask while not playing.

“So we have to wear masks until warm-up time is over,” senior travel basketball player Megan Baxter said. “Only parents can come to the games, grandparents are not recommended. We don’t wear masks during the games. One thing that is really different is that the refs wear gloves.” 

For some, the regulations are preventing players from playing to the best of their ability. But for others, it is not that hard to follow them. For example, the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball league is requiring all teams to supply their own baseballs, take their own temperatures at home and exchange lineups electronically.

“I think that they are doing the best that they can,” Baxter said. “It sucks wearing masks though.

Warm-ups have also changed. The time has been shortened. Some have not changed at all. Warm-up time is limited so it is harder not having more time.”

Some have not been able to interact as well with their teammates as they had before. For others, the interaction is not much different. The teammates are not allowed to give high fives, handshakes or fistbumps in travel baseball or volleyball.

“It is different not seeing each other. We can’t practice together,” Baxter said. “Nothing else has really changed.”