The Virtual Game

Athletes switch to virtual school to protect their sport season


Riley Wania

SWITCH OUT: Junior Rylee Denbow takes on Fort Zumwalt West on Dec. 17. Due to COVID-19, Denbow switched to online school to help preserve her season

Second semester commences, and with it new waves of quarantines. Student-athletes are tempted to go online to help protect their teammates and season. For many, the choice was a tough one: an almost normal school experience, or a strong sports season. Junior Rylee Denbow made the decision right before Christmas break. 

“I started the season quarantined and missed the first two games which was really tough mentally and physically … since then, the whole team [had] been quarantined when five players tested positive,” Denbow said. 

For Denbow, basketball has been a major role in her life for as long as she can remember. 

“I’ve been playing basketball…probably since I was five or six, [and] I always had a ball in my hand even before that,” Denbow said. “Growing up I had always been around basketball…I was always in the gym…I was always dribbling or shooting…I was always doing something related to basketball,” Denbow said. 

Despite the difficulties and impact COVID-19 has had on the team, she feels it is doing well to adapt and push through. 

“Coach [Hayley Leake] did a really good job of keeping us together through zooms and just checking up on us daily to see how we were doing,” Denbow said.

Their practices typically start together in the weight room or watching film to prepare for the upcoming games. From there, the girls are on the court running through plays and the various defenses and offenses in a game.

“I think Coach Leake always does a great job of having us feel prepared and ready to execute in a game against all the teams we play, which definitely gives us an edge over other teams,” Denbow said. 

Although going virtual for school is difficult, she enjoys the opportunity to pace herself and is less worried about being quarantined again. Online learning limits the amount of contact with others, and though Denbow isn’t able to have the same interaction with teachers and other students as she would in a classroom, she considers her teammates family and finds motivation and focus on the court.

Her school day typically starts around 7 a.m. when she spreads her work out on her bed and gets set up for Zoom. Because ‘in class’ times aren’t regulated by a bell, Denbow has struggled to balance her time between all the different classes. Fortunately, she has found positives to the change. After classes she is able to use her time to work, to study, and or to workout until she leaves for practices around 2:00. 

“We all know that tomorrow isn’t…guaranteed so just being able to step up and help the team any given night when needed is something we’ve all had to learn,” Denbow said. 

Athletic Director Scott Harris has felt the impact of COVID-19 on the teams as well as the school’s spirit.

“We have such a community and such a culture of school spirit…and all those aren’t there this year….The days of having 500 kids in the student section for right now are over…and that’s one of the biggest things I hate that we’ve lost. We gotta get this thing under control and keep things safe so…as soon as we can, we can get back to normal,” Harris said.

We all know that tomorrow isn’t…guaranteed so just being able to step up and help the team any given night when needed is something we’ve all had to learn”

— Denbow

Despite the restrictions and challenges faced by teams and their spectators, he remains proud of the coaches, sponsors, players, and community for their attitude and understanding, and the role they play in taking restrictions seriously. He respects students’ commitment to keeping a safe environment and taking initiative. 

“I think…everybody has to do the best for their…students and their families,” Harris said.