Athletes learn remotely, attend in-person for sports

Some students have chosen to learn from home, but still attend their extracurriculars in person.

Graphic by Anna Diorio ’23

Some students have chosen to learn from home, but still attend their extracurriculars in person.

When Staples reopened its doors to the entire student population, most high schoolers were anxious to return to their familiar cliques, favorite lunch spots and cheerful classrooms. Students were finally able to see their classmates every day, from head to toe. That boy, whose upper half of his body you’d become so familiar with online, was suddenly looking down at you while you stood at a lab table. The kid who always stayed in bed for class, with his chin glued to his chest, was now diving on the floor to save a volleyball from hitting the ground. 

While most of the student body can experience these familiar aspects of in-person learning, several athletes, in particular, remain at home. The primary reason for this choice to be a distant learner is to avoid exposure to COVID-19. Playing spring sports while remaining on Zoom for school makes it easier to stay safe from contracting the virus. 

“The great thing about tennis, for me, is [that] it’s all outdoors and it’s pretty easy to distance yourself,” Jenna Kornbluth ’23 said.

Kornbluth is a member of the Staples girls’ tennis team, and is a full-time remote learner. Although she is not comfortable attending school in person during the day, she finds tennis safe, because  it is an outside sport.

“I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing an indoor extracurricular at Staples,” Kornbluth said.

However, not all remote learners attending extracurriculars in person are remaining home solely for the purpose of avoiding the virus. Contact tracing—something that is quite frequent—has become a large impediment that affects participation in sports.

Maddie Hill ’22, who is on the Staples’ girls lacrosse team, has chosen to learn from home in order to avoid being contact-traced, which will ensure that she will not have to miss playing.

“In the case I were to be contact traced in one of my classes, I’d have to quarantine for the 10 days that the school requires, plus, an extra—I believe it’s four— for extracurriculars,” Hill said. “It would put me out of my season for two weeks and that’s not ideal for anyone.”

While athletes avoid the risk of being exposed to the virus by learning from home, they still must adhere to all of the required Covid-19 restrictions when participating in practices and games. 

Mask wearing for players, as of May 7, is recommended for all practices and games, but is no longer mandatory, according to the Westport Police Athletic League (WPAL). Coaches, however, are still required to wear masks at all times. WPAL follows the Staples High School Athletics Department policies, which adhere to the guidelines outlined by the CDSE. 

Mckenzie Didio ’22 is another member of the Staples girls’ varsity lacrosse team who is learning remotely to avoid contract tracing. Didio, who attends practice five days a week for two hours, said that in addition to the general COVID guidelines, lacrosse practices are run in a special manner that further prevents the spread of the virus.

“We have cohorts within our teams and we try to stay in them, like in the drills where it’s just small groups,” Didio said. “We go with our cohorts automatically and we all wear masks during practices, during games, we don’t have to wear them.”

Recently, adolescents ages 12 -15 have become eligible to receive the vaccine. In addition, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask anymore. More than 600,000 12 – 15 year olds have received the vaccine already in less than one week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said to CNBC in an interview.

Due to these new changes, people have been more lenient towards following guidelines. However, Didio feels that proper precautions are still being followed diligently at practices and games.

“It’s pretty easy with lacrosse to say socially distanced,” Didio said, “but I think that the athletic department and all of our coaching staff is doing a really great job and I definitely feel comfortable when playing.”