Christian Roque Ayala
When the COVID-19 pandemic went global during spring of last year, social gatherings of all scales had to be severely limited in order to prevent its spread as much as possible. Among the many groups impacted as a result were Hollywood High’s sports teams, which were forced to suspend their seasons for the foreseeable future. One year and a hefty decline in coronavirus cases later, they were finally able to get back on the field and start playing again.
Naturally, since the pandemic is still yet to end, these seasons were quite different from the ones that preceded them.
The varsity boy’s soccer team kicked off their season this year on April 14, lasting until May 19. In that month, they were only able to get in four games, with one of those being a win and another a tie. At first glance, it might seem like this low win count was simply due to poor performance, but there’s one notable detail to consider: the team suffered a big blow in the form of a player shortage.
Josue Xicara, team captain, said that last year, the team had a player count of 23 as a result of senior players graduating from Hollywood. In comparison, the team only had 13 players all this year. Some players felt unprepared to return because of a lack of training while others were barred from playing because of their poor grades, he explained.
One of the few returning players this season was senior Kevin Huerta, the team’s center defensive midfielder. “I returned this season because to start it’s my senior year and I wanted to experience playing for the school one last time before graduating,” he said. “I didn’t really care if we won or lost, I just wanted to play with my teammates one last time.” According to Huerta, this sentiment was also shared by the other returning senior players.
Unfortunately, Huerta says he saw two or three of the teammates that he had spent his entire career at Hollywood playing with, did not make a comeback this season because of their grades. At the very least, the players continued to support the team off the field.
However bad the situation for the varsity team may seem, things weren’t actually that bad. Sure, they might have not been at their peak this season, but like Huerta had indirectly stated, sports don’t always have to be about coming up on top. Xicara specifically told everyone on the team to simply enjoy the season and have fun since it was the first time in a year that they were playing together.
“As captain, I wanted my players to feel safe and feel like family when on the field, so every practice was for sure a fun moment for us, [they were] full of laughter and comedy,” he said.
Huerta particularly enjoyed playing scrimmages against his teammates during practice, something he notes as being one of the more memorable moments from the season.
This lack of concern for doing well in games and emphasis on having fun was shared by the girl’s softball team. In total, the team only played about three games over the course of around two or so months, with only one of those being a win.
Ironically, the main reason they didn’t play that many games was not because they had a player shortage like Hollywood’s soccer team; softball teams from other high schools were struggling with that issue instead. In fact, many of the members of Hollywood’s softball team ended up returning this season. Leslie Molina, a newcomer to the team who is the first basewoman, believes that the main reason the softball team remained intact despite the challenges presented by the pandemic was that their passion for the sport helped them overcome them.
The softball team saw the bonds between its players strengthening as they spent more time together instead of playing with other teams. Crystal Bolanos, the team’s catcher, recalled that her favorite moment of the season was when they were partaking in a teambuilding activity that had them describe themselves to each other.
“We just realized how much we were all alike… we just connected right there like family does,” she stated. “It happens rarely when a team connects, and it happened this year.”
As for Molina, she stated that the main memory she has of this season was her team’s overwhelming support and kindness towards her despite her newcomer status. “I was scared I wasn’t on the same experience level as most of the returners there already, but the girls were really friendly and supportive, they gave me tips on how to improve and it helped make me a much better player.”
So, in general, spirits remained high among two of Hollywood’s sports teams in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, player shortages, and under-preparation. It really just goes to show that if you’re ever faced with a hard situation, try your best to make the most out of it. You never know what could be in store for you; you miss every shot you don’t take.