By Claire O’Rourke
On 14 March 2020, governor Hogan’s order to close all K-12 schools, announced on Thursday earlier that week, went into effect. Not only did it mark what seemed to be the end for in-school events and sports, but also was a seal placed over my club volleyball team’s practices.
Strive Volleyball Club is a not-for-profit club volleyball program established in 2017 whose players come from all around Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County.
I have played for Strive since my sophomore year (16s), so I know from experience how engaging and hands-on the club runs their practices. This kind of approach and focus is pivotal to an athlete’s success and is one of the many reasons why I keep choosing to play for Strive.
However, once schools closed, so did their gyms which we use to practice in. And with that, the most important building block of volleyball skills was gone not only for our team but club teams across the nation.
Strive’s directors and coaches took to online meetings trying to come up with a plan for over the quarantine and quite possibly the remainder of the season.
“From what I know, the biggest adjustment the club has had to make was finding a way to salvage the season,” Strive 18s coach CJ Filippi shares. “We had heard some clubs had canceled their seasons for the remainder of the year for various reasons, and all of the coaches agreed to find a way to give our players a great and successful season, even if it’s now online instead of on the court.”
My 18s team has moved to online practices as of 2 April 2020, and as of now plan to continue these weekly practices until 15 May 2020. We have had five practices so far, and each has had a different focus and goal in mind.
“My [coaching] partner, Hallie, and I are trying to come up with multiple ways to keep our players engaged with volleyball. We’ve had discussions based on articles we’ve read, videos we’ve watched, and even personal experiences that have helped us grow as players and coaches,” Filippi shares.
Our coaches are also keeping us engaged in ways beyond just these online practices, Filippi elaborates. “We’ve been doing a 30-day song challenge where we do an AB workout to two songs based on the type of song for each day.”
Apart from just the adjustment in moving practices online, both players and coaches alike are also adjusting their everyday lives while the pandemic lasts. For Coach Filippi, the biggest adjustment was planning how to use his time more efficiently. “Before everything happened, I had a schedule for what was going on each day. When the pandemic happened and working from home became the new norm, my schedule opened up because I couldn’t go to practice because schools were closed,” he explains.
Although being unable to access and practice in a gym is certainly a negative effect of this pandemic, it has allowed the coaches of the volleyball world the bonus of more free time and family time.
“While I have to work from home and I can’t go to practice and coach my players, this has allowed me to do more things I want to do such as spend time with my wife, playing video games, exercise, and catching up on TV shows and movies I’ve been wanting to see on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+,” Filippi shares.
Ultimately, however, the coaches’ hearts remain focused on their players and how they are faring during this pandemic. “It seems like a lot of our players are responding well to it. It can be challenging at times because it’s not what we were used to before, but we’re all in this together and Hallie and I are lucky to have such an amazing group of girls that we get to coach. They’re a special group of girls and I’m happy to have each one of them on my team. I would say they’re my favorite group I’ve ever coached,” Filippi elaborates with heartfelt sentiment.