Thoughts On an Unusual Winter Sports Season

By Associate Director of Athletics, Tim Quinn

340 days and counting since a Grace Athletics team had a competitive game. An unthinkable amount of time during an unimaginable and unforgettable time period in all of our lives. The importance of being patient, yet persistent in getting athletic activity back was crucial to the social and emotional well being of our student-athletes. It was 315 days between athletic gatherings, and although it is hard to tell under the mask, I have been smiling a little bit more lately because we are back!

Safety has and will continue to be at the forefront of what we offer, but it is a wonderful feeling being able to offer our student-athletes an opportunity to gather with some of their teammates.  The modified winter season kicked off during our return to hybrid school on January 19th. It’s been important to limit capacity, so we’ve only gathered by cohort, masks have been mandatory (as is the norm, nowadays) and skills and drills are done in small groups with no body contact. We’ve also been creative in how we structured the schedule, utilizing before and after school time, to make sure we allowed every student athlete, fifth through twelfth grade, equal access to activities.  

Of course the natural craving for competition still remains. Student-athletes are wired to compete, making the lack of competition this year especially devastating. The sadness, anger, and other emotions that come along with not being able to play competitive games is not going away, but through this intramural basketball season, I think some of that sadness has dissipated. Ultimately, this is a new experience for us all, and while it’s taken some adjusting, we’re still happy to be hitting the court and keeping up with our practices.

The hiatus has given me an opportunity to put in perspective what I truly love about athletics.  The camaraderie, the social interaction with student-athletes and coaches, even officials and spectators. I certainly miss the competition, the process of trying to prepare my team to win games, but mostly I just miss our student-athletes enjoying their time together and that is why it has been so rewarding to see the teams start to practice again.  

In my opinion, there is nothing like being a part of an athletic team. I was fortunate enough to spend my high school and college years on a team and I could not imagine that being taken away from me. The patience that the Grace community has shown in regards to athletics is something I will always be grateful for. Furthermore, the trust and support in getting activity re-started has been tremendous. We will continue to work through the challenges and make the most of the remainder of the year.

With that being said, our second athletics season will begin on March 1st. We will first revisit the fall sports that were postponed, offering training sessions in soccer, cross country, girls tennis and volleyball. We will finish the year with a spring athletics season.

Having Fun in a Safe Way

by Ted Rohrs, Physical Education

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” This Spiderman quote is perfectly fitting for the Physical Education Department. Exercising, building and practicing social skills are the main lessons taught in our Physical Education program. Students need time and space to exercise both physically and mentally, and socialize amongst peers. The biggest challenge we are facing this year is to satisfy those needs in the safest and most comfortable way possible.  

At the beginning of the school year Ms. Stone, Head of JK-8 Physical Education, supplied all EC/LS  students a PE bag and packet with various workouts and activities to do at home. The at home students have the freedom to choose what activity they feel like doing that day. As a department we felt like this approach was important since exercise is not a “one size fits all” experience. Some like running, while some prefer long walks. Some enjoy the intensity of volleyball while some find solace in the slower pace of yoga. Overall, the importance is to be exercising and enjoying what you are doing.

The students at Grace, as well as the Physical Education Department, have been lucky to keep the “big gym,” available for class use for whole the school year. The Lower School P.E. program has been fortunate to be one of the school subjects permitted to use space outside of the students own classrooms. It is beneficial to all to provide a change of scenery as well as grant space for movement. With Tuttle hall being occupied, the Early Childhood grades have been having P.E classes on the roof, playground area, recess yard, or in the classroom. Ms. Quirk and Mr. G have been working hard and becoming quite creative with the limited space. The lower school grades have been lucky to be able to have all classes in the big gym!

Lower School Physical Education Program has required some adjustments as a result of this years’ challenges. Here are some ways I have approached this year. When a student walks into the gym they look at the weekly exercise board, targeting cardio and muscular strength and endurance. These 8-10 exercises at the floor spot which are spread out safely throughout the gym. After this 5-8-minute warm-up we move on to that day’s activities. For tag games we use a 6-foot pool noodle to tag one another or if it is sports lesson then each student has an individual piece of equipment. Equipment is wiped down after each class or recess as well as hands being sanitized as they leave the gym. 

Group games, cooperation and the classic P.E. games, except for dodgeball, have always been the cornerstone to the P.E. program. In games like 4 corners, Islands, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, and Blindfold Trust Walk; the students still can socialize while working on cooperation and trust. I have always incorporated yoga into my lessons to cool down and refocus before entering the classroom but this year seems more important than ever. Exercising with a mask is not an easy or comfortable task, yoga has been essential to calming and controlling the breathing of our students.

During our soccer and basketball units I have allowed some of 4th graders to be captains. They have been working so well together and captains have been leading the charge with group exercises, managing game-plans and giving feedback on skills and strategies. I can’t write a blog about the Physical Education Program without giving kudos to Ms. Toy and Mr. Pelz for filling in during Ms. Stone and Mr. Pazos’ absence. They have been a great addition, incredibly supportive and loved by the children.