As the cooler weather and new school year approached, St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s athletics fall season began very differently than the last due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Frank Gendusa, most sports have faced requirements for practice and games.
“The guidelines are set across the board not only from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, but also from the state, and our local government,” Gendusa said.
Under LHSAA guidelines, attendance for sports events calls for only 25% capacity, allowing the school to sell 250 tickets for football games, 84 for volleyball matches and 28 for swim meets. Attendees are also screened and must have a temperature below 100.4 degrees to enter. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged.
“It’s difficult right now to try and get parents to have seating and have our students to support their peers during events,” Genusa said. “Having a limited number of tickets also limits the take in at the gates, so it brings our finances down.”
Despite these challenges, the football team has worked hard throughout practices over the summer and while in season.
“We have a good group of seniors this year. They are doing a really good job not only on the field, but their leadership has been really good for us,” Gendusa said.
Players who have been on the varsity team since their eighth grade year are now sophomores and juniors, which has given consistency to the team.
“We are just a little bit more cohesive as a team, and the kids are enjoying playing and being together, and it shows out on the field,” Gendusa said.
Similarly, the cross country team has had minor changes in their program since the start of the season.
“With the COVID restrictions, we didn’t have to start until two weeks later than our normal summer training, which wasn't so much of a setback,” Junior Cross Country Runner Lauren Bone said. “Coach Lind was really determined to get us out there running. We had to wear masks at all times besides while running. I don't think it really inhibited any of our training which I'm grateful for.”
According to the LHSAA, while the state remains in Phase 3, there could be up to 50 athletes on the starting line. The team has had to branch out to different meets more than in past seasons, including competing in Hammond and at other school’s meets. Nonetheless, this has not affected Bone’s attitude toward the team and this season.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to go to state as a team this year, as our team from last year is much smaller so we have all kind of grown a close bond, especially the middle and the high school since the middle school program has almost cut in half,” Bone said. “Everyone on the team has gotten really close, especially with the restrictions of COVID, as we have all stuck together throughout it.”
The volleyball team has also seen differences since competing in their last season, from the number of supporters at their games to the way their games are played. Senior Captain Katie LaForge said that while she initially worried they might be unable to have a season at all, the games have been largely similar to previous years.
“The only differences are that we have to rotate balls throughout the match, we can’t switch sides of the net and we can’t interact with the other team,” LaForge said. “Also, we are unable to play in any tournaments and we have less games than we normally would have.”
However, that has not deterred the team from working toward its goal to make it into the playoffs.
“My personal goal is to be the best leader I possibly can and to try and keep a positive attitude the entire time,” LaForge said. “The main goal for the team is to keep our ranking as fourth and to go as far as possible in the playoffs and go to the Pontchartrain Center.”
The cheer team is facing a few challenges due to the new procedures mandated by the Universal Cheerleaders Association.
“For our competition, instead of travelling and making contact with thousands of people throughout the state, we have to submit a video to UCA of our three-minute routine, which consists of a band dance, a fight song, a sideline and a cheer with a stunt,” Senior Cheer Captain Rachel Royerre said.
The team has also lost the opportunity to cheer at many normal festivities, such as the school’s pep rallies and the annual Back to School BBQ. However, that has not prevented them from cheering on the football team at their games.
“The team has gotten so close this year in such a short amount of time. It usually takes a while for people to get comfortable with each other, but this year we all bonded really quickly over the summer,” Royerre said. “We’ve been practicing more challenging stunts and routines to show off for our competition this year, and we'll be doing them at the games soon once we get more practice and perfect them.”