Volleyball kicked off the season as the first indoor sport to compete during the pandemic, but with a twist. In previous seasons, the Pride only had two teams, but this year they had two varsity and two Jv teams to accommodate COVID.
“I loved that we were able to keep everyone who tried out this season and it was great to see the young players get an opportunity not just for practice but to have competition in real games,” said Coach Dobbin, JV head coach, via email.
Even though there were two JV teams, the girls played for a combined record, finishing with a 2-11 record for the season. The teams consisted of freshmen and sophomores, like most JV teams. Coach Dobbin and Coach Hensler worked together to give their JV freshmen a memorable first high school volleyball season amid the pandemic.
Practices were limited throughout the season. Each team hosted one game and one practice each week. This made it hard for the coaches when it came to planning practices and preparing their teams for upcoming games while making sure their players maintained social distance.
“We reduced the number of players at practice to provide for more social distancing during drills and rest time,” said Hensler via email. “We did less team specific drills to avoid players being in close contact with each other.”
Dobbin and Hensler collaborated to provide a fun and stress free environment. “My biggest takeaway from the season is that we were able to provide a safe environment where our players and coaches were able to enjoy the game of volleyball for a couple of hours a day and not think about the drastic changes and impacts the pandemic has had on us all,” wrote Hensler.
Playing high school sports is a tough transition because players have to adjust to a new system. The freshmen this year had to adapt to the COVID protocols, a shortened season, and limited practice time.
Since the volleyball season started later than normal, many girls were playing both school and travel volleyball. This was an opportunity for extra practice time since the girls could not practice at the school every day. “I had just started another [volleyball] team at a club so it was hard and tiring going back and forth to volleyball,” said Caroline Gill via text message, a freshman on JV Green. “After a week or so of [going back and forth] I realized that this was good for me.”
Gill describes her experience as fun and interesting. It was fun because she got along with her teammates very well. She felt the team bonded the most when they won their first game against Southeast Raleigh High School. It was interesting to her because they had more games than practices which is not common in a regular high school season.
For Liya Mekuria, a freshman on JV Blue, she feels that her first season was more difficult than a regular season, nevertheless she developed a bond with her teammates. “As we went later into the season we grew closer as a team and we started working together easier on the court,” she said via text message.
What Have They Learned?
Even though the Pride had a tough season, Hensler and Dobbin made the theme of the season “progression not perfection.”
Meaning, the coaches wanted their athletes to improve in their skills, not stress about winning. Gill personally feels like she improved from her first practice. She also realized that this year was not all about winning. “You don’t need to win to have a good time,” wrote Gill. “Even though we lost some games, we still had a fun time doing it together.”
Throughout the season, Mekuria learned to never give up on herself or her team. “We were at the lowest of lows and we were so close to giving up but in the end we kept fighting,” wrote Mekuria.
Coaching during a pandemic opened up the coaches’ eyes. Dobbin realized how much of a stress-free environment volleyball created for the players as well as themselves. “Having the time just to focus on volleyball and interact with others who loved volleyball was a nice get away from other stresses of life,” wrote Dobbin.
Overall, this COVID season was portrayed as a learning experience for both the coaches and players. Although things were different, both teams overcame obstacles which brought them closer together throughout the season. All of the hardships allowed for the players to gain friendships that will continue throughout future seasons.