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Embracing The Newness: How the Pandemic Has Impacted Sports & Theatre

Let me set a scene for you: bright lights. Whooping applause. People rushing to greet you with hugs. A sense of pride washing over you at the result of weeks of hard work. Did you picture that taking place indoors or outdoors? Depending on what type of extracurricular you prefer, the scene in question might […]

Let me set a scene for you: bright lights. Whooping applause. People rushing to greet you with hugs. A sense of pride washing over you at the result of weeks of hard work.

Did you picture that taking place indoors or outdoors? Depending on what type of extracurricular you prefer, the scene in question might have been a sporting event — victory over a clearly inferior school! Or maybe it was a play or musical, the curtain closing on a stressful, but worth-it opening night.

Despite their many differences, athletics and theatre have one crucial commonality. They both need an audience for participants to get the payoff for which they worked so hard. And, as you may have noticed, the current state of the world has all but outlawed crowds. Don’t get me wrong — it’s for good reason! But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt some big opportunities for sports and drama people alike.

A major part of the upperclassman experience is, of course, applying to colleges and universities. For many of us, this also means applying for scholarships. Those with true passion and dedication can combine the two, hoping to make their ‘name in lights’ dreams a reality. But the pandemic has really wounded upperclassmen who were hoping to do that.

“I don’t think we know for sure what it’s going to look like this year, but it’s different, in that, there’s not going to be the opportunity to be noticed your senior year,” says CB college counselor Mrs. April Melarkey. She sympathizes with students who find themselves in this situation, but noted that one group may have it easier than the other.

Soccer coach Mr. Jacob Hunley ’96 shares his athletes’ frustration. He admires their hard work, but knows it’s something they typically should not have to deal with.

“It’s really been put on athletes to reach out and make contact with colleges, either by using film and highlight tapes or sitting down and having Zoom interviews with college coaches. Sports are very polarizing, they’re in the media — but when they’re not happening, the big stories are all on the pandemic. It’s a lot of attention that could have been shined on student athletes doing great things. Those opportunities have been diminished. It was an abrupt stop nobody was ready for.”

Tyler Valerio (‘21) is a multi-sport athlete, tackling soccer, lacrosse, and football. He plays football and lacrosse for the community aspect, but has bigger plans for soccer. Tyler aims to take the sport to the professional level and has been honing his craft since his parents put him in soccer at a young age. It’s been such a large part of his life that he was unable to recall the specific year it started. At the start of the pandemic, practices were strained — to say the least.

“At first we had to stay in these six-feet boxes, and we couldn’t even pass to each other, and we had to have our own balls. And that just made practice pointless. Now restrictions have opened up a little, and we can pass to each other, but we still have to stay six feet apart.”

Despite those difficulties, Tyler doesn’t feel any less connected to or passionate about soccer. He holds out hope for the pandemic to turn around and stays determined that he’ll be able to make it big.

As for theatre, the circumstances are looking a little different. Performing arts have been utilizing the internet in a way that athletics can’t; they are able to put on virtual productions via Zoom and other video conferencing systems. But even though they have this advantage, the college app scene still looks foreign and unsure. There are two types of schools: audition-based and application-based. Simply applying to a theatre school isn’t much different from a regular school, but auditioning for one is just as personal and intimidating as it seems.

Performing arts instructorn Mr. Michael D. Jackson says that in normal times, prospective students would go to a convention and sign up to audition for a collection of schools. If someone couldn’t make it in person, they would make a special arrangement to send in a video. Of course, this is much more common today. It has to be.

“Now, I imagine, they probably have it more streamlined, in terms of people uploading videos,” Mr. Jackson says. “They have a platform and stuff to do it.” If a student has the resources, like a stage and lighting and someone to help film — Mr. Jackson smiled, gesturing at himself — they should go for it and make the most professional video possible. But most kids likely have to video themselves in their bedrooms, letting their acting be the main attraction.

For Dylan Cooper (‘21), who has been acting since she was six years old, the message behind a performance is just as important as the show itself. She believes art is the most important way that humans express themselves, and that theatre is an especially powerful way of doing so, which is why she’s pursuing an acting major in college. Through all the changes she’s seen this year, she hasn’t lost sight of why she loves what she loves.

“I would say my greatest passion is art paired with social justice,” the senior says. Dylan is upset that so much in the theatre world has been upended, but said she’s grateful for the unexpected opportunity it gave her.

“Art has kind of gotten a backseat, which is okay, because you want to be helping people. It really spurred me to take a break — for me to focus on the social justice aspect of it. ‘How can I bring change to the places that I am seeing art?’”

Change is, ironically enough, the one thing that has been constant all year. But if we’ve learned anything from living through such tumultuous times, it’s that we have the power to adapt. We will continue to adapt and forge paths toward our dreams.

Regardless of how the rest of this year and the beginning of next pan out, Mrs. Melarkey has no doubt that CB students will be able to overcome.

“We’re all in this together. It’s an even playing field, in a sense — it is nationwide. You are not alone. That sounds cliche, but I don’t mean to be cliche, I truly mean that. Embrace the newness of this. Take it as a challenge.”

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