Two weeks into the 2021 Spring Season, athletes have been able to train in-person again, and many have also had the chance to compete in interscholastic competition for the first time in over a year.
Lisa Joel, Athletic Director, hopes that during this term, students will be able to find joy through athletics, whether they compete on an interscholastic team or not.
“Competitive athletes like competing, they like the challenge of competing, so my hope is first and foremost that that outcome of competition is experienced by all of our student-athletes. We aren’t worried about the wins and the losses column. I think if anything, what we realized more than ever is that we love the thrill of having a competitive environment to participate in. I hope they find joy in it, I hope they find the importance of teamwork. I think more than ever we understand how as team members, our behaviors impact our teammates, so I think those would be the outcomes I would want in a [non-Covid-19] environment,” said Joel.
Like many athletes, coaches also look forward to returning to competition. Andover Track and Field and Andover Boys Cross Country Head Coach Patrick Rielly expressed his excitement for the upcoming track meets.
“I [am] really excited, I coach distance runners, and distance running is all about repetition and routine, and they’ve been training a lot on their own this year. So having competitions was really exciting for me as a coach, and I think the runners are ready for it, and they are excited to do it,” said Rielly.
While athletics is a great source of joy, they are also a source of creating strong connections with peers, according to Joel.
Joel said, “What we know for many high school athletes, competitive sports play will end after their high school years, a smaller number will go on to compete collegiately, but what we know and what we remember are those relationships that were created in team environments. The games always end, the seasons always end, but what we’re very confident about, is that the relationships that are the result of the blood, sweat, and tears of training, gamedays, difficult outcomes, and huge successes, are very formative, and carry on well past the high school athletic experience.”
Andover Girls Lacrosse Co-Captain Kennedy Everson ’21 also believes that sports are a place to create relationships with others and she hopes that the Girls Lacrosse team can be one such environment.
Everson said, “We are trying to build a community where we foster trust and try to encourage strong bonding and relationships between the players, especially now during the pandemic where people have been lacking natural relationships due to the inability to see others. One of our biggest goals is to have everyone be together and enjoy our time together and make the most out of what we have.”
According to Rielly, the resumption of competition has sparked enthusiasm amongst his runners as they prepare to race against other teams.
Rielly said, “I sense more excitement among the runners, I think their effort has been really high all year, and I’ve been really impressed with their effort and proud of them for sticking with it in a really difficult circumstance. One of my favorite things about coaching distance runners is that it’s a really big community of people, so I think that they’ve been training really hard all year, whether it be in cross country, indoor track, or outdoor track, but I do sense more of excitement with the possibility of competing against other teams.”
Joel agrees that competition is an integral part of athletics, and remarked on how it allows athletes to demonstrate the hard work that they put into training.
“I certainly think from an athletic standpoint, competition is a great outcome of training, it’s nice when you’re training all the time to actually have a moment where you can compete, that’s why we don’t train all the time. So I think the fact that we actually have games, training is great, but at a certain point kids want to see the fruits of their labor, and competition is a great way to do so,” said Joel.