PVAC cancels winter sports competitions, forcing sports teams to shift focus

Freshman+Shani+Schwartz+shoots+a+free+throw+at+a+basketball+game.

photo courtesy of Shani Schwartz

Freshman Shani Schwartz shoots a free throw at a basketball game.

Nini Panner, Reporter

The Potomac Valley Athletic Conference (PVAC) has officially canceled winter sports, but winter teams will continue practice through the end of February without league competitions. The winter sports offered at CESJDS include basketball, wrestling, swimming and track.

Steam rises above the pool as swimmers stand distanced along the pool edge, getting ready to jump in the outdoor pool. The temperature dips below freezing, but athletes still show up. Swimmers and other athletes have made these sacrifices because of the dedication to their team. 

COVID-19 restrictions have pushed swim practices to the outdoor pool at the Jewish Community Center where freshman Reut Skromne participates in swimming. Without swim meets, practices are more of a chance to exercise and get together with friends and fellow athletes.

“I guess the challenge is just mentally being like, okay, ‘I’m going to swim an hour even though it’s freezing cold,’” Skromne said, “I have to get in the right mindset and then once I start swimming, then it gets a lot better.”

Basketball has been harder to organize. It has been categorized by the county in the highest level for COVID-19 risk because it is inside and involves contact as well as a shared ball. Montgomery County rules permit only 10 people in a gym at once, including the coach. The basketball teams have had to separate to fit in practices at the Lower School gym.

County rules have also banned game or contact drills. This has severely limited practices to mainly skill and individual work. Director of Athletics Becky Silberman says that “this time to focus on skills… will make the players better because of it.” Silberman highlighted the dedication it takes for the team to continue without any competition opportunities. 

Freshman Shani Schwartz has been practicing with the JDS basketball team as well as a club team, Potomac Valley Thunder. The work she has done with the team has primarily been individual because of the restrictions. 

“I think that having scrimmages is important and really helps you figure out what you need to improve on,” Schwartz said. “I do think that doing drills that help us work on skill will help us improve individually and then we’ll have to catch up improving as a team when we’re allowed to.” 

Wrestling and track have continued outdoor practices and conditioning. They are able to continue workouts with social distancing and COVID-19 safety precautions in place. 

Because of the closure of school fitness rooms, Silberman has encouraged students to fit exercise into their daily routines. Many students have had to practice on their own time, taking advantage of any and all opportunities for improvement. 

The JDS weight room has also not been able to open fully to students. Only three students could safely exercise in the room, and it must be thoroughly cleaned after each session. The Upper School gym is filled with desks for school and is currently only used by the dance team. The tennis courts have been closed, but can be opened for JDS students.

“I keep telling people to do things at home, go for walks and utilize your neighborhood,” Silberman said. “JDS doesn’t have that much space right now. We’ll have all of our outdoor sports again [in the spring] and it’s much easier, but the winter is definitely difficult.”

Although much of the news related to winter sports has been negative, it is important to focus on the continued strength of athletes and coaches as situations change constantly for the school. 

“There’s this constant shift of dealing with new changes,” swim coach Edie Boyar said. “We’re just having to constantly adapt to the times.” 

A persistent theme throughout winter sports has been inclusivity and comradery. JDS sports teams continue the hard work even as it gets increasingly difficult to get outside for exercise. 

“[JDS athletes] are so dedicated and they show up and work hard. I don’t think the pandemic is stopping them from pursuing the hard work,” Boyar said. “I think it says a lot about the character of our teams that they are willing to try new things to be successful and move forward.