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Monday, September 28, 2020

Athletes uncertain about game plan

Bailey Swain, goalkeeper for the Pierce College soccer team, stands in front of her apartment in Woodland Hills, Calif., on May 20, 2020. Photo by Katya Castillo.

For many high school senior and collegiette-level student athletes, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a state of uncertainty for their playing futures.

That same reality can be felt by baseball player Dirk Ryan.

“When the season got canceled, coaches couldn’t even talk to us anymore,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “There wasn’t really any plan of where to go after this season.”

In the wake of the pandemic, local state and national health officials introduced multiple regulations in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Such regulations that have impacted Pierce student athletes include the cancellation of the spring season, and an indefinite ban on face-to-face recruiting among schools within the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).

According to the CCCAA website, the recruitment ban is extending until the Safer at Home order is lifted.

Given the decision, it didn’t take long for players like Ryan to realize what that would mean for their own academic and athletic careers.

“The biggest thing is nobody can talk right now,” Ryan said. “Nobody can reach out to anybody and we’re locked down. There’s no way of getting out there right now. ”

Bailey Swain, goalkeeper for the soccer team, said the current circumstances have placed her in an uncomfortable situation since she has already decided to transfer to UCLA in the fall.

“It changed my plans,” Swain said in a phone interview. “I probably won’t move out since the first quarter will be online”

Swain and Ryan also play sports during alternating seasons, meaning they’re training year-round.

Women’s collegiate soccer is a fall sport, so Swain’s season wasn’t impacted, but her spring training was.

“What we do now is, we have assigned running and conditioning that we need to do,” Swain said. “We do training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Coach Perez watches us do some drills as well.”

For Swain, the struggle doesn’t come from losing a playing season, but rather from adjusting to her new virtual academic reality.

“I didn’t understand how hard it was to work from home,” Swain said. “I’m still making the same grades, but it is so hard to keep the same grades and stay disciplined while I’m at home.”

For players like Ryan, the pandemic left a harsher impact.

As a result, Ryan has been forced to find other methods to stay in condition while in quarantine.

“My dad has a gym set at home. We got it all cleaned and fixed up,” Ryan said. “That’s pretty much the only thing that has been keeping my sane.”

Ryan and his brother also go to their neighborhood batting cages, two or three times a week to practice.

Despite the end of his season, Ryan said his sacrifices are for the better.

“I know I’m fine with what I’ve been doing, given that I’ve followed regulations,” Ryan said. “I’m following orders making sure to protect my family since they’re more at risk.”

Pierce College Interim Athletic Director, Susan Armenta, said in an interview via Zoom she has done what she can to help out during the pandemic.

“We’ve helped give athletes referrals to people like Joseph Roberson, the Pierce College Athletics Counselor,” Armenta said. “We’ve been helping give information that has been out there to the coaches and students, and giving them direct links, as opposed to trying to figure out and navigate the website.”

At the start of the pandemic, Armenta and other athletic directors throughout the Los Angeles Community College District, have been keeping in contact with one another.

Topics the group have discussed include updating one another to see how other programs have been coping with the quarantine, and staying informed about any new regulation changes that stem from the pandemic.

“The big thing right now for us is May 29, the day when the CCCAA Executive Board will be meeting to decide what will be happening in the fall,” Armenta said. “A lot of us are trying to unite and really push to have a playing season, as well as figuring out what it would take to even have that.”

As for what the upcoming fall season may hold, Armenta remains hopeful.

“We want the season, and if there are restrictions, we want to have a scenario that is still fair and safe for everyone involved,” Armenta said. “We were told that any option can be considered, whether that may be a shortened schedule or postponing the start of the season.”

For now, Ryan, Swain and many other student-athletes will have to continue with a sense of uncertainty with their playing careers and where their next academic homes will be.

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