Basketball Returns Despite COVID

After talking and laughing together on a long bus ride, Woodson basketball players step on the court to be greeted by a roaring crowd of fans. The bleachers are packed, and the team exchanges encouraging hi-fives before taking their starting positions. At least, that’s what should be happening. 

Instead, due to the ongoing pandemic, players are forced into a new strict environment filled with social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer. Despite this, the basketball program at Woodson is continuing to thrive while supporting its players and coaches. Games against other high schools in the county are still being scheduled, and players are able to practice their skills outside of official games through drills and scrimmages. 

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Freshmen boys basketball team playing Centreville. The Cavs won 64-29. Photo courtesy of the Woodson Hoops Twitter, @WTWBoysHoops.

“We are following the FCPS guidelines,” says Varsity Head Coach Doug Craig. “[We are] attempting to limit personal contact, keeping different teams apart and scheduling tweaks to build in time between practices.” Consistent self-hygiene and handwashing between areas are also highly encouraged by everyone on staff.  

Players agree that the precautions are reasonable and allow them to feel safe during practices and games. Kevin Burns, one of three Boys JV team captains, says that he “[does] feel safe because coaches and staff keep balls and seats clean, as well as make sure [they] are socially distant and have masks on almost all of the time.” Girls JV player Chloe Park also confirms that all players wear masks on and off the court and that everyone takes the precautions seriously, allowing her to feel safe while playing as well. 

However, not all of the new regulations that come with playing during a pandemic have been simple. “It has been frustrating to have the season start and stop multiple times as teams pause and have players miss time because of quarantining,”  explains Girls JV Coach Mike Viccora. “As a result, we have only had a handful of practices, making it hard to build the team bonds and community that we do in a normal season.”

This, combined with all of the new precautions, could easily ruin the fun of basketball; however, Coach Spero assures that morale remains high. “We are all so fortunate and happy to be playing. It really lifts up our moods during such a difficult year, mentally,” says Spero. “It feels normal to have practices and games and finally be able to add these things to our schedule.”

While this is true, both players and coaches say that they miss having fans at the games. Fans helped in a close game with momentum and helped everyone focus while really cheering the players up. Even though Woodson basketball fans can’t support the team in-person, they can still enjoy the games alongside the players by watching them live-streamed for free on the Woodson Broadcasting Studio YouTube channel.