Softball team plans to dominate opponents and COVID-19


Bella Canale

Bella Canale (11) poses with the softball team for a quick post-practice selfie. Wearing masks is one of multiple COVID-19 precautions the team has to take at practices and games.

Warm spring air and the sound of bats dropping to the ground are telltale signs of a fresh softball season. However, there is a special level of excitement for this season, as it is the first opportunity for the team to compete in over a year.

Although some things like pre-season excitement never change, COVID-19 forces the team to make some adjustments to the normal procedures at practices and games. To keep both players and coaches safe, temperature checks are administered before each practice while masks and social distancing are implemented as much as possible.

“Before every practice, each player is asked a series of COVID related questions … and our temperatures are documented,” Bella Canale (11) said. “That’s before we’re allowed onto the field everyday. Then we can go and start practice. We try our best to socially distance [ourselves] and wear masks unless we’re running or out of breath and need to breathe.”

In comparison to other team sports, softball is relatively distanced already. Although softball bases are closer together than in baseball, they still sit far apart 60 feet from first to second base, from second to third base and so on.

“As far as softball goes, when runners are on base we’re … far apart at any given position, so social distancing stays pretty good [in that sense],” Karina Hernandez (9) said.

Actively wearing masks and socially distancing while playing any sport presents challenges; however, members of the softball team have noticed little effect on the productivity or morale of practices.

“I think everyone’s doing pretty good … honestly, in softball, it’s really not that hard to stay apart ‘cause it’s an outdoor sport,” Bella Tichenor (10) said. “Other than being in the dugout, it’s pretty easy to make sure you’re where you need to be.”

While practice and gameplay remain mostly unphased, the recruitment and tryout process was largely impacted by the rushed start of the season. Most years, tryouts are advertised for weeks prior to the beginning of the season over multiple platforms: social media, daily announcements and more. This year, the beginning of the season was announced a mere few weeks before the first game. Due to this short turnover time, no tryouts were held.

“By not having school, we’re having to rely on people reading those announcements off [Microsoft Teams] … I usually have a lot more freshmen that want to play or come out to try out, but this thing got thrown together so fast that it’s difficult,” Coach Bob Alberson said. “I’m taking whoever shows up [this year].”

Luckily, they held a few valuable practices before the first game on March 15. The team is looking forward to an almost full schedule of about 20 games contrary to the normal amount of about 25-30. 

“We are having less games, but we’re still getting good competition from great teams like Collierville and Houston,” Canale said. “It’s sad to see that some schools couldn’t get enough students or athletes together to play … St. Agnes’ team couldn’t get enough people together this year to play, so we are losing some good competition.”

Other than a slightly reduced number of games, one major difference in the competitive season for some players is the limit on the number of family and friends permitted to attend games. 

“It’ll be a little sad because I know for one I have a big family, and a lot of people like to come to my games, so it’ll kinda be disappointing knowing that they’re not there,” Tichenor said. “But at the same time, I think that our team is very upbeat and very focused, and I don’t think it would affect us at all.”

Despite these differences, Alberson and the team are thrilled to be playing. After a disappointing cancellation of the 2019-2020 season due to COVID-19, the Class of 2020 did not receive a final season something Alberson is glad the Class of 2021 does not have to experience.

“I’m just happy we’re actually getting to do it because the hardest thing for me was last year when I had to tell the seniors that we weren’t going to be able to play,” Alberson said. “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a coach and now … I’ve got three or four seniors that are actually going to be able to have a season … I’m more jubilant for them to be able to play a season.”

With many new challenges and missing normalities, this season could be deemed impossible, but Alberson and the players are optimistic about pushing through and enjoying the season. 

“I feel like [COVID-19] has shown us all how to take on a new angle to a situation we have to defeat,” Canale said. “It’s hard not seeing your teammates’ faces everyday or [not] being able to team huddle before games and after practices. It makes a difference, but we’re all just waiting for the day that the masks come off and sticking with it.”