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Kathleen Hale, Social Media Coordinator

My volleyball journey began on the first day of fifth grade, late August 2014. I heard some of my classmates talking about how they needed more people on the volleyball team. I had never played before and didn’t know anyone else who was playing but decided to sign up anyway. By the end of my very first practice, I knew that volleyball was my sport. My love for the game grew  and I went on to play on all of my school teams as well as on multiple club teams in the off-season. 

Fast forward to March 2020, I was a sophomore, and couldn’t wait for my spring season of sand volleyball and a summer full of workouts and practice. Then, the world hit the pause button. We were facing a pandemic, leading to the cancellation of school and all extracurricular activities. 

Almost immediately after we got the news, our new head volleyball coach, Katie Powers, sent the team an email. She gave us all of the details about the restriction and told us to stay hopeful that we could get back to playing soon. She also gave us a set of workouts that we could do on our own for the week ahead. In all of the shock and confusion that the team was going through, this email cleared things up and helped us focus on one thing at a time. But this was only the beginning. 

Throughout April and May, as COVID 19 cases skyrocketed, restrictions only got tougher. However, week after week, Coach Powers would update us on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s COVID policy, as well as give us a new round of workouts to do at home. 

“The hardest part for me has been feeling like I’m letting the girls down every time I have to deliver another piece of bad news, e.g. season getting delayed, no practices allowed, etc. I’m so eager to get in the gym and get to know the athletes…” Powers noted. 

I, like many others, was naive in thinking that this virus would affect only our Spring season, until it was eventually announced in late May that continuing with normal Summer workouts would not be allowed. Although I understood why this was a necessary course of action, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. However, I was not alone in my disappointment; student athletes everywhere were feeling the same way, including my own teammates. 

Coach Powers gave her advice to athletes in these difficult times, “My message would be to use this struggle to your advantage. Growth does not come without struggle, and the toughest people are the ones who have faced the most difficult challenges and figured out how to come out better on the other side. Grit is built out of struggle. I would tell all of the athletes out there right now to stay focused on what you can learn out of this, and how you can become stronger rather than dwelling on the negative.”

As always, Coach Powers came through with an organized plan for us at the beginning June. She set up a recurring zoom meeting for Wednesday mornings in place of the in person conditioning we would have been doing all summer long. This way, the team would be able to workout all together, at the same time, but from our own space. The experience was motivating and fun for the whole team. In fact, it even had its own advantages. 

“Being able to hop on a Zoom call and see your friends’ and teammates’ faces is invaluable. Being in person would be great too, but the silver lining of Zoom is that we were able to all be together even when some of the girls were out of town. Under normal circumstances, they would have had to miss the workout had it been in person.” Powers explained. 

It also proved to be a team bonding experience like none before. The zoom meetings boosted team spirit while also holding us accountable for participation in the workouts. In addition, we learned lessons that go beyond just the sport.  

Powers put it perfectly, “I think the team is learning extremely valuable skills from this time period in history. These include patience, persistence, focus and perseverance. Not everything in life comes easily or quickly. Waiting can be hard, but the patience they’re learning will pay off in sport. Sometimes learning a new skill can take a long time, and there can be many setbacks before you see sustained improvement. I’ve seen the girls persist and persevere in keeping up with the workouts, despite the fact that no one knows if and when we’ll have a season. If these girls can focus during times like these, I have great hopes for the focus they’ll bring to our team when things return to normal.”