The pressure is on: basketball kicks off the winter season

RV athletics welcome back winter sports as basketball teams have their first tryouts this week


Photo courtesy of Mr. Maniglia

Coach Flanagan huddles with last year’s boys basketball team

Jya Marshall and Brianna Ottey

After all winter sports and activities were dramatically postponed by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) due to a staggering number of COVID-19 cases, there is finally some needed light at the end of the tunnel.

RV’s girls and boys basketball teams began their long-awaited tryouts on Monday. Normally, the winter season would have kicked off early December and teams would have already competed in games and tournaments. However, the ongoing effects of the pandemic mixed with the return of athletics will make these upcoming seasons unpredictable and unprecedented, but one thing is certain: the 2021 season will be unforgettable.

Since the start of the fall athletic season, the world of sports has been introduced to a new set of rules that must be strictly followed on and off the courts or fields such as social distancing, face coverings, health screenings and limiting the total number of players. Nevertheless, winter sports, specifically basketball, as it is the first group to return, will definitely need to adjust their season in compliance with the new regulations: it will soon become the new normalities of playing sports.

Instead of sitting home on their couches snacking endlessly on junk food and bingeing Netflix shows, many athletes took it upon themselves to start preparing for their sport. Also, many athletes remained hopeful that they would have the opportunity to play and decided to continue training rather than sulking over the postponement.

Junior and center/power forward Hamlet Martinez describes his experience and recalls, “even though I wasn’t sure if we were going to have a season, I went outside and practiced. I wanted to stay in shape and be on top of my game so that if the season came, I was ready.” He felt much of his independent work paid off, but was mostly grateful for the chance to return to the court. “[Tryouts are] so much fun,” he said. “I look forward to more wins this season and making more memories.”

Despite the abnormally low number of athletes participating, coaches, the administration and returning players were grateful to see some new faces. Senior Kylie Bradford said, “even though we lost players I have the most confidence in my teammates to step up and fill into their roles.” Although this is not the senior season she imagined, Bradford is more than prepared to be a role model to the younger players, especially freshmen.

“I am really excited for this season, even though this is my last year,” she said. “But I’m really grateful for all that is going on, to be able to play on the court. I have faith in my team and that we will be able to pull through with a great season.”

Even though tryouts this week gave players and coaches a sense of normalcy and distracted them from issues surrounding the outside world, the threat that basketball games will not be as exciting as they once were still lingers in the back of everyone’s minds. Moreover, similar to the football season, the number of spectators for games will be extremely limited, the basketball games take place inside an enclosed area.

Players expressed how much they will miss the adrenaline rush they get from the roar of the crowds filled with RV pride, cheers from the cheerleaders, and of course, basking in the glory of a well-earned win with friends and family. However, both teams, especially seniors, remain positive.

“[We have to] make the most of every day we get an opportunity to play,” said returning senior Samantha Poljevka.

After also previously experiencing the exhilarating RV basketball season in her freshman year, returning sophomore Ta’mia Mackins attended tryouts as well and is “very optimistic and grateful for this season. I’m excited to make new friends while playing my favorite sport. Even though this season will be different, I’m happy to be able to play basketball and improve on the skills that I lack.”

Ready to make the most of this unconventional season, freshman coach Danielle Moore looks forward to “another year of playing with clay,” excited to mold the newcomers into better players and help them improve their skill sets. Although players and coaches like Coach Moore are ecstatic to be the first sport to return to play, the possibility of not having a full season continues to temper enthusiasm. Knowing this, the coaching administration of both girls’ and boys’ teams stresses the prominence of staying buoyant and giving this season the best effort.

They also encouraged the younger players to be considerate for the seniors, as this is their last hurrah, in addition to staying safe and avoiding contact that risks the spread of COVID. As good as it is to be back with the team, one COVID case has the possibility of cutting the season even shorter, or ending it for good. The pressure is on to stay safe–and have a winning season.