Online ovations for winter sports

Winter sports forced to adjust fan attendence as season starts

Peter Kanellos dribbles up court in the team's first game, and win, of the season against Maine West on Feb. 6 in Gates Gym

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Peter Kanellos dribbles up court in the team’s first game, and win, of the season against Maine West on Feb. 6 in Gates Gym

I think [my team] is just so excited to be able to get out and finally be able to play after almost a year, that doesn’t really matter to us.”

— Anika Roche

With winter sports finally making a comeback after months of being pushed back due to IHSA guidelines, competitions and games are going to have a new look for fans who want to attend.

“There are some sports like boys swimming and diving, cheer, dance, gymnastics, and bowling that are…competing virtually against other teams,” said Augie Fontanetta, the New Trier Athletic Director.

“We’ve been using Youtube, Boxcaster, and as our last resort, Twitter Live,” said Fontanetta.

This new feature has been met with a positive response, especially from parents like Amanda Love-Yeager, mother of a sophomore gymnast.

“I am very grateful that they’re competing virtually and streaming the meets. Of course, it’s not the same as seeing [my daughter] compete in person, but it’s a safer option right now,” said Love-Yeager. “As a registered nurse (R.N.), going in person is a risk my family can’t take.”

Many student athletes agree with this sentiment.

“I have watched a couple of [live streams], and I think they’re great. It’s completely better than not being able to see the games at all,” said Varsity girls basketball player Anika Roche, “I think it’s a really good solution.”

Because of this new format, changes to the scoring system have been made for some sports.

For instance, each school gymnastics team will play from their home gym while live streaming their performances. Since the teams don’t meet face to face, the process in which a winner is chosen was changed.

“We enter scores into the computer, and at the end of the meet, we compare scores and that’s who wins…it’s really just comparing data,” said Fontanetta. “There are officials there, so they are being properly judged… the only difference is that the other team’s at their home gym.”

Emma Love, a sophomore gymnast felt that playing without the opposition was beneficial, so she could focus on her own performances instead of the other teams’.

There’s so much fun seeing what other teams are working on and what their girls have in their routines and how you could put that in yours.”

Not all sports can compete over a live stream, so sports like badminton, basketball, and fencing are all in person.

The maximum capacity of the home gym is fifty people, including the players, coaches , and other staff members, which means that the number of family watching will be extremely limited.

For each game being held at the home gym, a registration is opened on the New Trier home page. From there, family members can sign up to view the games in person. No parents from the opposing team are allowed to enter.

“For the most part, it’s two guests per athlete that can come [watch the competitions], and they have to be from the same household or the guardian of the athlete,” said Fontanetta.

While it’s important to adhere to social distancing guidelines, some athletes were disappointed with the lack of fans.

“It’s something special to have the audience cheering you on and rooting for you, so without that kind of motivation, it’s definitely going to be tough,” said sophomore badminton player, Lana Butovich.

Andy Pekar, a senior on the varsity basketball team, had similar feelings.

“It was definitely really quiet in the gym. Both my parents came, they were all separated in the stands, and there were no opposing teams parents… so you have to create your own noise. It wasn’t what we were used to,” he said.

The in-person competitions themselves have also been altered to fit IHSA guidelines.

“Obviously you start a [basketball game] with a jump ball where the referee throws a ball in the air and whichever team catches the ball starts. I’m a little confused why— maybe to minimize risk, but this year we’re gonna start with an inbound ball underneath the basket,” said Roche.

Even the usual setup of the bleachers have been altered. It’s mandatory for all audience members to stay at least 30 feet apart from the competition itself. Players themselves also have to adhere to the 6 feet apart guidelines while they’re off the court.

“All the chairs where we normally sit on the bench were separated, so I couldn’t talk to more than half my teammates,” said Pekar.

Although the situation is not ideal, many athletes have found positives amongst all the changes.

“I think [my team] is just so excited to be able to get out and finally be able to play after almost a year, that doesn’t really matter to us,” said Roche.