Hit, attack, spike…while masked: Volleyball finds success despite COVID restrictions

Tsion Saunders, Sports Editor

Fall sports are back at Reagan High School. Gyms are back to full capacity while  raiders fans cheer on the volleyball team. The team’s usual shouts of encouragement and excitement are a little muffled behind the masks that they must wear during play, but the required face coverings haven’t slowed them down. 

    All fall sports participants can play and practice mask-free as long as they are outside. When teams are using indoor facilities, masks are required at times. Masks must be worn in locker rooms and hallways. Volleyball is the only indoor fall sport that wears a mask all the time. Volleyball players must wear masks during games, practices and team outings.  

      “Personally, wearing the mask all the time has become sort of a second skin,” said Zoey Beal, junior outside hitter. ¨We have to wear them in school and it’s no different after.”

The varsity volleyball team is currently 11-1 as of Sept. 21. They have played some tough teams and have been fortunate in most, beating East Forsyth 3-1 on Tuesday, Aug. 31, and beating McMichael High School 3-1 a week before on Tuesday, Aug. 24. 

When playing away matches, schools have different rules. Some schools allow teams to use locker rooms while others don’t. Schools may or may not provide water bottles for visiting teams.  

With each away match, the volleyball team has had to adjust to new rules.

“We get to where we need to be and respect their rules and follow ours,” Beal said. 

Following COVID-19 protocols is imperative for the safety of the team as anyone can be exposed at any time.

  “At practice and in games we try our best to wear our masks with the exception of slipping while we play,” Beal said. “Other than that, we as a team try to stay on top of our safety to ensure a full and successful season.” 

Wearing masks can make breathing more difficult and can make players hotter. The excretion of sweat and body fluids through the course of practices and games makes wearing a mask a challenge, but the Raiders are persevering. 

“It is hard along with everything that has happened in COVID times, but we are getting through it together as a team,” said Hallie Cole, a junior defensive specialist.

COVID  protocols currently in place are approved by the Winston Salem Forsyth County School board and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. 

“We just try to make sure we stretch properly, listen and go to trainers and follow all rules when it comes to COVID,”  said coach Doug Balser about how he keeps his players safe. 

 Balser has been coaching volleyball at Reagan for six years and has been very successful in his time at Reagan. Reagan volleyball were the state runner-up in 2016, regional champions in 2016, and have been conference champions 10 times from 2010 to 2020. 

One way the team is managing wearing masks during games and practices is that coach Balser lets the girls call their own water breaks.

“We let them call their own breaks, to catch a breath and get out of their mask for a minute,” Balser said. “Actually, they call fewer water breaks than our coaches would.”

Balser also advises his players to step out of the six feet zone and lower their masks for a second or two to catch their breath when needed. 

 Balser’s ultimate goal is to keep all of his players safe, face different and difficult challenges as a team and continue to win games in the pandemic era. 

“As long as we can stay on the court and play, I will do what it takes and I think the rest of the team agrees,” Beal said.