The sound of people cheering can mean many different things. But this noise has a different meaning for student athletes.
This noise has feelings and likely scenarios attached to it; a home game filled with adrenaline and excitement. The anticipation before the tip-off in a basketball game or the first serve of a volleyball match. The heart-stopping moment before the gun goes off at a track meet. One of the most important parts of a season for all student athletes is being able to show off their skills in front of their friends and family at their own school, and hopefully beat the other team.
February 2020; I was on vacation, eagerly awaiting the moment I could return to Shanghai so I could play in the biggest basketball tournament of the year. Three days before we were supposed to fly back, China classified COVID-19 as a potentially dangerous virus and extremely contagious. I could feel the possibility of getting back to Shanghai in time for APAC (Asia-Pacific Activities Conference) basketball slipping out of my fingers.
After COVID-19, sports changed completely. For almost a year after the pandemic started, one of the most loved aspects of sports for student athletes disappeared completely. The cheering ended and the fans disappeared, leaving a select amount of student athletes who played sports because it truly was their passion. Teams got smaller; no regular student wanted to practice day after day with no possibility of competing against other schools. The future of high school sports in Shanghai was looking bleak and depressing.
Fast forward to the 2021-2022 school year. My season one sport, volleyball, is already filled with games and events to help promote our team. The first Phoenix Friday of the year, one of the most beloved nights for all teams, was exhilarating and everything I had remembered. Seeing all the fans in the crowd, hearing the whistle blow before the serve - it all reminded me (and my whole team) of the true excitement that sports bring to each of our lives. While COVID-19 definitely took away almost a year of competing in the sports that I love, it helped me learn to appreciate how lucky I am to have found my passion.