Return to RAISE: RM athletes get back to work

March 26, 2021


Photo Courtesy of Damon Monteleone

The RM Varsity Soccer team has returned to action, along with most fall athletic teams.

After a year-long wait, Richard Montgomery athletes found themselves back on the field as Montgomery County initiated its Return to R.A.I.S.E  strategic plan. With a shortened fall season upon us, football, soccer, poms, volleyball, cross country, and cheer squads are back to practicing on campus. However, since the COVID-19 virus is still very much present, sports have returned in only a limited fashion, bringing along with it mask wearing, social distancing, and only a limited number of people per practice.

Currently, RM sports practices,  per the requirements of the Montgomery County coronavirus safety regulations, are divided up into “pods”. These pods are separate groups of around 20-25 people within teams that allow RM to perform contact tracing if needed. These pods are separate from each other and do not interact with one another. Because of this, if one person in a pod becomes ill with coronavirus or comes into contact with someone who has been infected, only that pod will have to be shut down as opposed to that entire team or all practices being shut down.

Each team and their respective pods are assigned socially distant practice areas with enough room for athletes to move around while still maintaining social distance protocols. Along with this, athletes must complete an online waiver on their phones every time they come to practice through a QR code posted outside each pod’s practice area. This form is a simple way of tracking which athletes are at practices and includes a quick questionnaire on if the athletes feel sick in any way.

“A lot of the drills we do are distanced,” junior Una Mekic, a member of the volleyball team, said. “Passing and warm ups [come first] and then we work on serving so we are on different sides of the court. You get your own ball as well.” However these regulations do serve their purpose of protecting students and making them feel safe from a possible COVID-19 infection.

“I feel fine, I feel good,” Mekic added. “A big thing for me is two of my best friends are already on the team so it’s kind of like we are already in the same circle. So that’s like two less people to worry about.”

Others agree. “It’s definitely hard to run with a mask on but there’s not really an easy solution to that,” sophomore Sean Borsum, a member of the cross country team, said. “Once you get on the track and start running, everyone still has their mask on and it’s still pretty separated.” 

With the limited practices, athletes are missing having unrestricted practices. “I miss the big meets with all the different schools and counties across the state and everything that was super fun” Borsum said. “It’s definitely better than nothing,”

Mekic concurred. “I’ve never played volleyball before but it was nice to high five your teammates. It was nice to make contact with them.”

Moreover, having the opportunity to return to sports in some capacity and regaining that team camaraderie has been worthwhile for students. “I know it’s not everyday [practices], but that kind of stuff was nice to add to the routine,” Mekic said.

As for many other athletes, they’ll have to wait a bit longer before they can see their teammates. Junior Sebastien Zeineddin, a member of the RM swim team, is one of many affected by the swim team’s limbo. “The fun part of it were the meets we had,” Zeineddin said. “It’s really just hanging out with your friends and…. cheering them on and it’s sad not to have that.”

Despite this, the swim team remains in good shape. “There’s actually a lot of people from RM swimming that do swimming with RMSC (Rockville Montgomery Swim Club),” Zeineddin said. “In fact, the head coach of RM swim team is also one of my coaches for my club swimming.”

As there have been no announcements on the return of unrestricted practices from MCPS, no one can be completely sure on when athletics will return to a normality. “I would say probably at some point next year, I don’t really see that happening this year,”  Borsum said. 

Nevertheless, having students back on campus and participating in athletic activities is the first step to take for the entire community. While the return of athletics comes at steep costs, rest assured that RM athletes and athletes around the county will still be very excited to get back to work. 

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