CapRadio’s Rich Ibarra is a volunteer coach for the girl’s tennis team at Saint Mary’s High School in Stockton. He checked in with this personal account of how they get to game, set and match this season.
High school sports in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties started back up again this week but with many changes due to the pandemic.
The tennis team at Saint Mary’s High School in Stockton is made up of about a dozen girls, from freshmen to seniors. The Rams will face their first opponent of a seven-week season on Feb. 25.
The Sac-Joaquin Section has 26 member leagues, but for now, only girls tennis, boys golf, track and field and swimming are allowed. Other sports from basketball to softball will be played later but only if counties in the region advance to the next tier in the state's reopening plan, such as red, orange, or yellow.
Head Coach Jill Mancebo says the chief concern is safety, and the new rules are many.
“We wipe down everything before, during, after,” she said. “The girls wear masks ... they social distance when we’re in a group, and when they’re actually playing, they’re typically more than six feet apart.”
For sophomore Lauren Carter, playing tennis is more than just a sport.
“It’s really nice getting out of the house, getting to see my friends again. Being able to see people and interact and get back into the social part of it,” she said.
Junior Mia Fields says grabbing her tennis racquet and stepping onto the court is a relief for both her and her parents.
“They were starting to get worried for everybody because there was a lot of news stories about kids becoming depressed because they’re at home and stuff, and so they’re just glad everybody is back and having a good time,” she said. “It seems a lot of people are a lot happier now.”
Players can choose to take off their masks during play since they’re often 50 feet apart or more, but some, like senior Brooklyn Bo, are still cautious.
“On the court, I don’t really trust it so I’ve been keeping my mask on. It’s just kind of stressful,” she said.
Among the major changes are no playoffs, teams cannot play outside their home counties and much to the disappointment of junior Lisette Almanza, fans and parents cannot attend the games.
“That’s not a fun thing,” she said. “My family loves to come to watch me play and we make it fun every time, so it’s kind of sad that they’re not able to come.”
The Rams may not come out on top this season, but sunshine, fresh air and joining the team can make all of them feel like winners.
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