A year of virtual learning as a high school student: What it’s like playing high school sports during a pandemic

As part of their Report for America service project, corps members and staff reporters Abbey Marshall and H.L. Comeriato worked with an Ellet Community Learning Center news writing class, taught by Emily Lees, to help students write narrative pieces about their lives as high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are student dispatches from various points of the previous school year.

written by Alessandra Pinto; photo by Becky Tucker

It’s sad thinking about how much our lives have changed in such a short amount of time, even the little things. Last year, we had a normal soccer season and this year we barely got one.

The day that the Akron Public Schools Board of Education decided if we would be able to continue with sports at Ellet CLC High School, I was at home. I had asked my parents if I could go to the field to play soccer with a bunch of people, but I received a message from our coach a few minutes before I got there: “It saddens me to send this message out, but APS has suspended all sports immediately.”  Once I showed up, I told my friend who was sitting on the bench watching the others play. 

Soon after, many students and coaches from APS protested in front of the Board of Education on North Main Street. It was rainy outside, but that didn’t stop them from showing up and fighting for their season. Our captain, Kayla Suansing, and Ellet Coach Justin Dimengo were among those who participated. I wasn’t able to go. Not too long after this protest, the Board of Education decided that they would allow sports with health and safety rules in place.

As soon as we got a yes on sports, our coach started practices the following week. At the practices, we were full of joy because even though we weren’t allowed to start games right away, we were just happy to  play. Personally, I was excited to play; the field was one of the only places outside of school where I was around people. We took precautions, including social distancing and wearing our masks coming to and leaving practices. We only played inner city schools and everyone was socially distanced while sitting on the bench. Even our belongings had to be distanced at least six feet apart.

I think that this experience brought our team closer together. The team always had fun together, but this year, knowing that we were close to canceling the season made it more fun and full of joy. 

Some of the rules that the board set were that we could only play district teams, which was disappointing for us because only two other schools have a girls soccer team. That meant 10 games: five against each team. 

“I was grateful that we were able to play against any team at all. Yes, I was disappointed but under the circumstances, I understood,” said captain Kayla Suansing.

“At first, I dreaded the same game five times, but each game was just another chance to play some soccer,” said Suansing.

I knew playing the same two teams wasn’t the ideal season, but we were all happy to get to play and knew that the board was doing their best to keep us safe while at the same time letting us have fun playing sports. We made the most out of the season and played the best we could, winning all 10 games  and making it past the first round of the playoffs. 

Next year, I hope to get back to the regular season like we had my freshman year, play different teams, and go to tournaments. 

Alessandra Pinto is a student at Ellet Community Learning Center. This piece was published as part of a collaborative project between Report for America corps members Abbey Marshall and H.L. Comeriato and Ellet CLC’s news writing class taught by Emily Lees.