Student-athletes persevere through pandemic


Since March 2020, before people started to wear masks, when the new spring season had just arrived, and when COVID-19 was just around the corner, life for students at La Quinta High school had flipped completely upside down. 

COVID-19 forced people to stay inside and keep a social distance, and for most students, that was hard enough as it is. Some students took advantage of their time at home to catch up on sleep and relax. Others were confused how to use their newfound free time, especially the student-athletes. 

With their spring season coming to a quick end, what else was there for them? If there’s no more practice, what else is there to do after school? The spring 2021 season was unclear. 

Three Blackhawk student-athletes in their senior year of high school reflected on their experience during the pandemic and how their upcoming 2021 season made a change in their daily conditioning. 

It’s evident that these are a few out of the many student-athletes who show they have hope for their season and have the willingness to go out everyday to be with their team, as needed during these indifferent times. 

Joseph Maher ‘21, a third-year waterpolo player, talked how his days felt slow and his loss of focus for water polo and needs. 

“There’s like certain points in the pandemic where, of course, I just wasn’t in the right mindset. I just hadn’t had very good days, And it was sometimes constant work, not enough time for me to really do what I wanted to. That just caused me to slow down and just not focus on what I should have been doing,” said Maher. “So, yeah, there were days, like slow days, where it just didn’t feel right. So I just didn’t do it.” 

Yazzel Lopez ‘21, a fourth-year track and field player, explained that it’s not just the sport she missed, but rather, her teammates. 

“I think I feel I will miss more of the people and the environment. I feel like that’s what made me join track a lot more. I do like being in the sport and having a chance to work on my skills,” said Lopez, “but I feel like when it used to be a big group of people, it was just so much more enjoyable.” 

Sebastian Celaya ‘21, a fourth-year football player, added that he had his moments of unmotivation during the pandemic. 

“I think it was mainly during July [that] definitely a low point for me because a lot of things weren’t going my way,” said Celaya. 

His uncle, who works for Palm Springs Unified School District, was the first to break the news that there wouldn’t be a football season.

“And that really took a blow to my whole motivation,” Celaya said. “And it didn’t help that like even my family was just like telling me, ‘Yeah, you’re probably not gonna have football season.’ But I still kept working out. I still, you know, did as much as I could and just stuck with it.”

However, things turned around for the better when the new school year began and conditioning was required for their sport, giving student-athletes the hope they needed to push them in the right direction. 

Lopez started conditioning for track in November 2020. Celeya started conditioning for football in March 2021, while Maher started conditioning in February 2021 for water polo. 

Since the beginning of the school year, Lopez has been practicing with the same group of 10 people and feels safe conditioning and being around her team.  

She now feels much stronger, as she has regained her motivation back and has the willingness to improve her skills for throws. 

Her mental health has improved from being able to get out of the house and fixating her focus on beneficial things other than school. “Although practice is tough, it feels great to have goals to strive towards again,” Lopez said. 

Maher also feels safe practicing with his team again. “We are tested weekly and whenever we’re out of water we wear our mask,” he explained.  

Now conditioning with his team, he explains how great he feels to workout and be back in the water. “Now I have something to do,” Maher said. “I’m more motivated to get up and do things instead of lounging in my room.” 

Despite being in a full contact sport, Celaya feels safe throughout his whole practice. 

He’s aware that even if his team is practicing the way they used to, COVID-19 is still around and he’ll remain to take needed procedures—such as, staying in the same groups based on positions, keeping a six foot  distance as much as possible, and being tested once a week. 

Being back on the field Celaya feels reunited with his family and his “old football self” again. Both his mental health and motivation has changed for the better.

“Football overall puts me in a good place due to the sport itself,” he said, “the teamwork, and the championship that comes along with it.” 

Based on their experience throughout the pandemic, these three student-athletes also shared some advice on how to persevere. 

“Even if the pandemic does reach on to next year, we’re always learning,” said Maher. “We’re learning more and more how to manage this. And we just know that this is going to be better for next year’s returners, and years coming, and it can get hard but just don’t don’t fret and just keep, keep pushing, keep pushing through.”  

Celaya added that the lessons he learned can be applied to anyone—not just student-athletes. 

“All I can say is, whether [you’re] doing sports or not, just keep persevering. Keep doing your work, keep working out, keep doing whatever you need to do. Don’t give in, don’t do anything dumb, or at least try not to. But, you know, keep doing what you believe is right.” 

Lopez recommends that future students and student-athletes go for what they want when they want it.

“Do what you want in the moment, obviously, you know, keep in mind the consequences, but if you have something in mind just go for it,” said Lopez. “I feel like when you look back at it, time goes by so fast. I feel like if you’re going  to make a decision at any time, just go for it.”