School reopening plan leaves RM athletes divided


Image Courtesy of Montgomery Magazine

The Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to begin the return to in-person instruction on March 1, after almost a year of all virtual instruction and multiple reopening delays.

With Montgomery County incorporating a virtual learning environment for the first semester, in-person athletics were officially shut down for the fall season. While many were optimistic about a potential return in the winter, there has been little substance to turn these hopes into reality. As of now, there are no official practices that have been approved by the county and coronavirus rates have fluctuated after a brief de-escalation. 

Despite the lack of in-person interactions, athletes have done their best to keep in contact with their teams throughout these unprecedented times. “The team group chat still stays active,” junior Ethan Le, a goalkeeper for the varsity soccer team, said, “We practice a little bit, we get together from time to time to get some small stuff in and make sure we still stay fresh.”

However, without organized practices, the overall team environment has been lacking “It’s like a little family y’know. It’s just so lonely right now and I’m really missing that family aspect of it mostly,” Le added. 

Senior Charlotte Turesson, a member of the cross country team, concurred. “It’s so demoralizing just because you’re not there with your team, you’re not there laughing and spending quality time with them, stretching together, working out together, being able to push each other,” she said. 

Others have found ways to stay in tune with their sport by engaging in club sports that institute social distancing and mask wearing policies. “I currently have 7 practices a week with my club team, RMSC,” Zeineddin said, “We have to socially distance but we get to hang out and work out together.”

Despite the fallen status of the fall and winter sports seasons, MCPS is currently planning on incorporating condensed versions of each sports season into the second semester. Athletes, however, have expressed varying opinions on the steps to take to bring back county sports. 

“In a perfect world I think I would want gradual steps,” Le said, “I think right now what we need is just everyone to hunker down and take that time away from sports.” 

With seniors’ final seasons line, it’s a tough call for the county to make. “I know I’m a junior so like obviously I get another year when a lot of these seniors don’t,” Le added. “Honestly I think that we just need to wait it out and make sure we get everything situated before returning to sports.”

Others disagree: “I think the little bit of exposure we do get to people is so valuable,” Turesson said, “I think doing a little bit would really just help to bring our team together again and also just give people that sense of belonging.” 

In regards to MCPS’ condensed plan, athletes continue to be divided. “It’s gonna be an effective way to give all these seniors the chance to get in their last year of sports. It’s a good way to make sure the fall sports get the same recognition and opportunity to play.” Le said.

Honestly I think that we just need to wait it out and make sure we get everything situated before returning to sports.

— Ethan Le

Zeineddin, however, sees it as more unfair to spring sports athletes whose time to impress college recruiters would be taken away. “I have some friends who are lacrosse players…and now in their junior year when they get to put themselves forward for coaches their time is being condensed, which I don’t necessarily see as fair.” 

One solution that some believe are the first steps to returning would be hosting smaller practice groups. “I think we could start with [around] five people,” Turesson said, “Maybe even just starting off once a week with a small number of people and then gradually going to move people or more frequent practices.” 

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and the MCPS athletic department will soon have to make a difficult decision. Regardless of the verdict, the county will put the health and best interests of student-athletes and coaches first.