COVID-19 cohorts: The evolution of sports practices in a time of uncertainty

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Rohan Vaswani

Freshman Sam Stein runs through hurdles at a cross country practice while wearing a mask. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, sports practices are limited to cohorts of 14 athletes, and participants must abide by local social distancing guidelines at all times.

By Elana Eisenberg, Tomoki Chien, Marie Godderis, Rohan Vaswani, and Barrett Wong

Note: For a better viewing experience, please access this photo essay on web (not mobile).

Pyramids of cheerleaders have become masked groups doing planks in the quad, and football players who once huddled tightly together now warm up six feet away from each other. The COVID-19 pandemic may have stopped in-person school, but school sports have yet to be shut down.

Season one sports have been able to continue practicing while following strict rules and protocol, such as wearing masks before and after practice and social distancing with other athletes. For most sports, a cohort system, which limits each practice group to 14 athletes, has been put in place to reduce the chances of athletes catching COVID-19.

So far, no sports have been able to participate in any games or scrimmages against other teams. A statement released by the California Interscholastic Federation stated that there will not be competition as per a decision made by Governor Gavin Newsom.

To illustrate the stark differences between pre-COVID-19 sports and the current environment, photographers from The Talon documented some of these sports cohorts during their practices. Keep scrolling to explore the interactive photo essay.

Cheer

Prior to the pandemic, the cheer team performed at rallies, football games and competitions, jumping and twisting as they supported each other in tight pyramid formations. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and their current lack of a coach, the team currently works on conditioning and strengthening exercises led by Athletic Director Michelle Noeth.


Cross Country

As a non-contact sport, the cross country team has been able to adapt practices to account for social distancing. However, traditional cross country races packed with hundreds of runners are unable to occur right now, so the team is limited to small training groups. 


Field Hockey

The field hockey team grew accustomed to frequent games and intense competition between offense and defense. Now, with scrimmages and games shut down due to the pandemic, the team works on passing, shooting and strengthening drills at a distance. 


Football

Tackling and blocking are key parts of football, which is one of the highest-contact sports at Los Altos. To abide by COVID-19 guidelines, the team’s practices currently consist of non-contact drills such as passing and receiving, as well as strength training.


Tennis

Although tennis is a socially-distant sport on its own, competitions and certain drills are affected by the pandemic. Currently, the team modifies drills for both singles and doubles players to ensure social distance between athletes. 

This story was originally published on The Talon on November 22, 2020.