Athletic Director Terry Jenks claps his surgical-gloved hands and shouts the rules of the day through his mask to athletes: Keep your masks on, work hard and have fun.
About 30 Decatur High School students, spaced across the football field in pods of 4 or 5 students each, spent Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 23) breaking a sweat alongside teammates and friends at the second preseason conditioning practice.
Across the Federal Way school district, all four high schools are offering workouts twice a week to help prepare students for the condensed sports season beginning in early March.
The North Puget Sound League, which includes Federal Way, Auburn and Kent schools, agreed upon three distinct sports seasons. Most fall sports have been set for Season 1 (March 8-April 17) while spring sports are in Season 2 (April 12-May 22).
Most of the high-risk indoor sports that have less ability for social distancing, such as wrestling or basketball, have been set for Season 3 (May 17-June 26), with the hope that by then the COVID-19 curve flattens even more.
Senior William Forbes, captain of the cross country team who also plays soccer and basketball, kept with a workout routine throughout the last year, even amid gym closures.
“I found [working out] was vitally important to staying happy and healthy, especially when we got into online school,” Forbes said.
Forbes said it’s been disappointing to watch the end of his junior year evaporate and his senior year slip by, but he still has his sights set on qualifying for state in cross country.
“At some point, I had given up on the thought that we would end up coming back, but it’s nice to know that even with restrictions, we’ll sort of be able to come back, enjoy this last year and compete.”
After nearly a yearlong hiatus of high school sports, the priority is no longer about winning, Athletic Director Terry Jenks said: “It’s about the experience. It’s about being together, working hard, being disciplined, but with your teammates.”
The first conditioning practice on Feb. 18 was a learning experience for everyone. Athletes were unsure of how close to stand to each other and were getting accustomed to working out in masks, said Krystal Perez, a physical education and health teacher, head cross country coach, and assistant track coach at Decatur.
“It’s very exciting to be out here under the circumstances,” Perez said. “These kids really need it. I know they’re happy to see other human beings in general, and be interacting with their peers and coaches again.”
Perez, along with PE teacher and assistant wrestling coach Zac Cardwell, and English Language Arts (ELA) and student leadership teacher and assistant cross country coach Matthew Paterra, created the conditioning workouts for Decatur with a focus on bodyweight exercises and no equipment.
The loss of camaraderie is a tough consequence of the pandemic. So is the difficulty in attempting to build a sense of community in such unusual times.
“I think we’re going to come out of this better because we all went through it together,” Cardwell said.