SPORTS: Athletes persevere despite sweeping Omicron variant


Emma Wasel

Senior Jason Visitacion plays at the varsity boys basketball game against Cupertino on Feb. 1, 2022, with new COVID-19 restrictions in place.

The Omicron variant has swept through schools across America, and SCHS is no exception. The new wave of COVID-19 has led to stricter fan and mask restrictions, further prolonging the return of normalcy in sports.

Many of the coaches and athletes at SCHS have dealt with continuous restrictions over the past two years. They may pose as an annoyance to some, but wrestling coach Andrew Calderon believes they are effective.

“I think that their intentions are to prevent it from happening within the room, within the athletes, within the students,” Calderon said. “It’s working.”

Although all athletes are required to wear a mask and get tested weekly, wrestlers have been given a unique guideline. When engaged on the mat, athletes are not required to wear a mask since it has been deemed a choking hazard. This may seem like a gateway for exposure, but the wrestling program has not experienced many COVID cases.

“I don’t know of any cases happening within our team by being near one another,” Calderon said. “What I know is that people are getting COVID outside school settings.”

Several wrestlers, including sophomore Pavan Nawbatt, have witnessed a smaller turnout for the wrestling team due to COVID. According to Nawbatt, some of the COVID protocols have led to some repercussions, including a smaller team, but he understands that they are essential for the health of the athletes.

“I think that the restrictions were necessary due to the time we are living in,” Nawbatt said. “I can understand why the school had to make restrictions, but it made it a challenge to compete on the mat.”

Despite accepting the given COVID guidelines, Varsity boys basketball player junior Ethan Lam thinks that some changes could be made to help the team perform better during games.

“I believe the 10 players that are on the court don’t have to wear their mask because it’s too hard to breathe with your mask on while you’re playing, but when you’re not on you should have to keep your mask on,” Lam said.

The new variant has also led to more rigid protocols for outdoor sports such as golf. SCHS golf coach Kevin Vannest has been told that his athletes are required to wear a mask when actively competing, which he does not think is necessary due to the nature of the sport.

“Personally, I don’t think we should have these restrictions for golf,” Vannest said. “It is an individual sport being done outside with social distancing already built in.”

For some, it has become very easy to hone in on the negatives of the situation, but they believe it is equally important to focus on the positives that come out of following safe practices.

“You just gotta have systems in place where you keep them as safe as possible,” Calderon said. “Where they still get to do [sports] so they can have the most normal high school experience possible.”

Many coaches and athletes consider these guidelines essential, but there are still some things that are collectively missed.

“It is nice to see the players smiling,” Vannest said. “With a mask on you just don’t see students’ emotions very well.”

For many students, sports help them excel and become well-rounded, which is why nearly all coaches believe that it is crucial to continue the athletics program despite the barriers created by the pandemic.

“Everything we’re doing, it may be a nuisance, but it’s super beneficial for the student athletes,” Calderon said.