By Lily DeBlasio
Hammond Cheerleading performing at Varsity Field Hockey’s senior game, Picture by Lori Donato
After missing a regularly scheduled fall sports season last year, Hammond athletics had to be prepared for any challenges that could occur this year. Last fall, all sports were postponed to spring of 2021 due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Many alterations were made to the way each program was run, in order to comply with CDC guidelines.
Michael Lerner, the Hammond Athletic Director, explained one of the biggest issues athletics has faced during the Pandemic; buses. “The biggest thing [Covid-19] affected is transportation, like buses. With drivers getting sick, games are starting later, it’s a lot of late nights for athletes and coaches.” With late buses affecting game times, scheduling for every program has been more difficult than in previous years. Game times now have to be flexible, in the event a bus can’t make it on time and teams are late.
Aside from modifications made due to COVID-19, Hammond is also facing issues caused by the current renovations. Lerner explains “Hammond has the least amount of field space of any school in the county.” That being said, with the renovations occupying some of the practice fields for fall sports, Lerner says how “we have to be creative. What it’s forced us to do, is have teams practice off site, like field hockey does.”
Having field hockey practice off-site means one less team fighting for practice time on the bermuda grass or stadium field. When programs have home games however, the stadium field is reserved for them, creating a scramble for field space between each of the different programs.
One of the few sports that doesn’t require field space is cheer. Even though they don’t need a field to practice on, the Hammond Cheerleading program has been one of, if not the most, affected sport by the renovations. “The renovation affected cheer more than any other sport because they use the auxiliary gym, and that was our biggest storage area. We had to store stuff in the aux gym for the first couple weeks until the upstairs was ready to move stuff out of there.” Lerner says.
When the auxiliary gym was discovered to be unusable, cheer had to find other solutions. Some practices were spent inside, in the gymnasium, in between volleyball games and practices. When that space was no longer accessible, they resorted to practicing outside, on the blacktop.
While solutions like off-site practices and new practice environments were not ideal, all coaches were able to have input on the fate of their program. “I consulted every coach about this,… every coach had input on it, and we all worked together.” That is something Hammond Athletics excels in, claims Lerner.
“That’s one thing we do here that is better than most places is that the coaches are all in it for the kids and we all work together really well.” Coaches were extremely flexible when it came to their programs practice times and location, something that was necessary for all athletics to run this fall.