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Column: Playing high school basketball during COVID

Like many teens across the world today, my first year of high school was spent in quarantine at home, attending online classes. At my high school, no sports were allowed or available in Fall 2020. As cases of COVID started to decline this spring, it was announced by my school that they were going to…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/travisyen30/" target="_self">Travis Yen</a>

Travis Yen

October 2, 2021

Like many teens across the world today, my first year of high school was spent in quarantine at home, attending online classes. At my high school, no sports were allowed or available in Fall 2020.

As cases of COVID started to decline this spring, it was announced by my school that they were going to have tryouts for the basketball team.

On my own, I had been training for the basketball season continuously. I did my best in trying to perfect my basketball shot by going to a shooting machine two days a week. The shooting machine allowed me to practice the rhythm of my shot and practice my muscle memory in order to keep the same shooting form.

I have also trained with my private coach of seven years in order to get pointers and professionally prepare me to become a better basketball player. I stepped all my training up when I heard the news that tryouts were going to happen.

Usually, tryouts begin in August or September, and there is a Fall League and a Spring season. During the pandemic, tryouts were around the first few weeks of March instead. It was near the end of the school year, but it was better late than never. At least I would get to play basketball for my high school freshman year.

During the month of March, most educators were vaccinated but the students were not. So we had to follow COVID safety protocols for the tryout.

At first, we had to check in with our names and contact information and were required to wash our hands in order to go shoot around. With masks on, we started with simple stretches and then did drills in order for the coaches to see our skills.

Having to play basketball with a mask on, it was harder to breathe, leading me to feel more fatigued after the tryout. However, the mask did not stop me from performing and showcasing my skills to the best of my ability in front of the coaches.

I felt pretty confident during the tryouts because of my strong work ethic and all the preparations I had made in order to secure a spot on the team. After making it on the freshman team, my teammates and I were determined to make the best of each practice that we had, especially because quarantine had cut our season down to a couple of short months.

With only one month to train before our first game, my team and I had to make the best of what time we had and work even harder in order to become the best of the best. As the first year of my high school basketball career, and with certain COVID safety guidelines, it was very difficult to make it a normal basketball season.

Of course, we were required to get two COVID tests per week. Our school had hired an urgent care medical group to come test the players two times per week in order to clear them to participate in practices and games. We would be notified day to day of when we would practice because a COVID outbreak would shut our training down for weeks. Luckily, we didn’t have any outbreaks in our basketball bubble and were able to train uninterrupted.

Preparing for the first game of the season was difficult for our team to get to know each other, due to the lack of being able to socialize in person during this pandemic. The team chemistry was off in the first few practices, but we got to know each other better the more practices we had together. We learned to play with each other with our different playstyles, and we were able to adapt to one another’s skills and habits.

Practicing day in and day out, I prepared for a long month of competitive basketball. With the coronavirus still being a serious matter, wearing a mask to these events was still the normal routine and guidelines. Masks were still required to be worn on the bench during games, and players had the option to take them off during the game.

As we took on coronavirus as a big challenge, another challenge we faced was winning our games.

We faced two teams per week, and we played against many different opposing teams with different playstyles which made our team adapt to each and every one of them in order to win. Each game, the team was closer and closer to becoming the first undefeated team in our school ever. With a lot of hard work and determination, my team and I proudly accomplished this goal in May.

After we went undefeated in the spring season, school ended and there were a few weeks left before summer basketball began. With little to no time to prepare for our games, tryouts were held for the new summer JV team. I made the team easily, but I knew that there was a new goal this summer to emerge undefeated again.

We prepared for our first game in June, which had similar guidelines like before, wearing a mask on the bench and the option to take it off if you are playing. Our summer JV team swept through the league like a breeze without taking a single loss.

As I prepared for school in the first week of August, I heard the news of this new variant of the coronavirus — the Delta variant. I wondered if a new outbreak would occur, so I took precautions in order to prepare for the in-school learning for my sophomore year at Diamond Bar High School. It felt like things were going back to normal, but the new Delta variant said otherwise.

Going back to school was a bit unusual since we haven’t had in-school learning in over a year and a half. Everyone was required to wear masks inside classrooms but were able to take them off outside.

As the first two weeks of school passed, we were notified that basketball tryouts were going to be held on the third week of school for the new JV team. Since some COVID 19 restrictions were lifted, the coaches were not strict on us wearing a mask during practice. Fortunately enough, we are able to have a Fall League this year, which will take place for a month from the end of September to the end of October.

This past year was a special year with so many challenges for everyone, young basketball athletes like me included, and with the Delta variant still being a serious problem, we still have many challenges to face for the rest of the year.