By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer (‘23)

Winter sports at Indian Hills have begun; however, new obstacles due to COVID-19 have impacted the athletes’ season. So far, ice hockey, skiing, basketball, bowling, and fencing seasons have begun, with swimming, winter track, gymnastics, girls volleyball, and wrestling to start competing in the upcoming month. Multiple measures have been taken to ensure all participants’ safety while also allowing for a sense of community and normalcy. Although the virus poses an obstacle and threat to the season, it is fortunate to have the chance to play, considering the circumstances.

Coach De Carlo of the boy’s basketball team at Indian Hills shares, “I think that whatever type of season we are lucky enough to play, we should appreciate and feel fortunate. I feel like our boys have made the necessary adjustments to what is expected of them, and I think they are just so grateful to be able to step on the court again. It goes quite a long way to help them get back some sense of normalcy… I feel extremely grateful that we are being given this opportunity, and I sure the boys feel the same.”

Of course, there are many difficulties that COVID causes. The unpredictability of the season causes much stress, and all that there is to do is adjust and adapt. As practices and competitions continuously change, coaches and athletes have no clue how long their season may be. Coach LaBarbiera of Girls Fencing at Indian Hills states, “There is so much uncertainty, so we have to be flexible with that… as a coach and a player, during my entire career we have always said and heard, treat each competition as if it is the last. No one ever thought it would be so relevant as it has. We want to encourage that [mindset] even more now because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Despite the uncertainty, the coaches and the school are working hard to create the most suitable and ideal season for students. “There was a lot of behind the scenes efforts to prepare for the season,” says Coach LaBarbiera, “Our goal was to get kids playing, reestablish a high school experience, and just make the best of the situation.” Such preparations include establishing a safe environment for athletes to play,requiring masks to be worn at all times indoors, daily COVID screening forms to be filled out before entering the building, providing extra masks and hand sanitizer on-site for use, and practicing social distancing. Although these precautions are for everyone’s safety, there is no doubt that they can be bothersome occasionally.

Kali Kuffel, a sophomore on the girls fencing team, explains, “The most difficult part of playing sports during COVID is definitely the masks because we are working out and need more air to breathe in, but the masks make it difficult, which results in us overheating a bit.” 

Regardless of obstacles posed by the pandemic, the opportunity to play and reconnect with others has helped players overcome these obstacles. Plus, this unique situation also provides a real learning experience. Coach De Carlo shares, “One of the best things that have come out of this situation is that it is a tangible example to our student-athletes that in life you are going to have obstacles, hardships, and difficulties. There are always going to be things in life that you can not control. If you set yourself up to be task-oriented and take care of the things in life that you have direct control over, you are setting yourself up to be successful. These young men have committed to sacrificing things outside of basketball as a means to ensure that they can play, and that is an extremely admirable quality to have in life.” 

There is no certainty when it comes to what the winter season will look like for athletes, but it can be assured that the Indian Hills Braves will make the most of the situation and make this season meaningful.