Last month, junior Jeremy Grace put on his cleats and green jersey and joined his teammates on the soccer field for the first time in over a year. After GDS was outplayed in the first half, Grace told the Bit, his sophomore teammate Leo Pivato was subbed into the game and scored an impressive goal, energizing the team. Even though GDS ended up losing the game 4-2 to St. Andrew’s School, Grace said he was thankful for the chance to compete.
Over the course of a three-day stretch from Mar. 18 to 20, each fall athletics team was able to play a competitive match against St. Andrew’s. It was the first time GDS teams competed against another school in over a year, representing a major step towards the athletics program returning to normalcy.
“Despite being out of shape, it was awesome to be back on the field,” Grace said.
Grace said playing sports during this unusual time helped give him and others an escape from the stresses of the ongoing pandemic. “This year has been rough in so many different ways,” Grace said. “Playing sports adds a sense of normalcy to my daily life and also brings a group of friends and athletes together.”
Men’s golf and tennis also lost their competitions. Women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and the men’s and women’s cross country teams all enjoyed success at their respective events. However, Athletic Director David Gillespie stressed in an email to the Bit that these matches weren’t meant to see who won or lost, but rather to allow teammates to have fun together and to give younger athletes a chance to play with more experienced players.
But getting to this point was not easy. Originally, in December 2020, high school athletics were scheduled to return to competition as COVID-19 cases in the District of Columbia were declining. But on Dec. 7, as winter approached and cases spiked, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order shutting down all high school sports competitions.
“Literally the day before we were going to start competition, the mayor came out and shut everything down,” Gillespie told the Bit.
Bowser’s order that shut down sports expired on Mar. 17. A few days later, Bowser announced that she would relax COVID restrictions, thus allowing Gillespie to schedule fall sports competitions right before spring break.
Now, with students back from spring break, GDS spring sports will begin full-team practices on April 5. Gillespie has scheduled competitive matches every week for all spring teams on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays through May 23. Players can opt out of competitions against other schools.
Many precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the spring athletics season. Currently, GDS athletes are expected to get tested twice a week.
Veronica Ampey, GDS’ athletic trainer, is in charge of coordinating with the trainers of opposing teams to confirm that every member of their team has tested negative for COVID-19 within a week of the competition. Without that confirmation, Gillespie said, competitions will not take place. Players, coaches, and officials will be required to wear a mask during the entirety of games.
Junior Lizzie Rosenman played in the volleyball game against St Andrew’s on Mar. 19 in the GDS gym and said the experience helped to keep friends and teammates connected and team chemistry intact.
“I felt comfortable playing sports, especially with all the protocols GDS is taking. The administration is being extremely cautious in a good way,” Rosenman said. She hopes other athletes, especially the ones who are unsure if they should participate, choose to play sports this year and make the best of the opportunity.
One important feature of the mayor’s new protocols is that high-contact sports are prohibited in Washington, D.C. Therefore, Gillespie said, he will have to schedule all men’s and women’s lacrosse games in either Maryland or Virginia for as long as the order remains in place.
According to Gillespie, spectators won’t be allowed to watch GDS sports games for the time being. But fans can still follow games live as the school plans to livestream every home game on the Georgetown Day School YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, Gillespie is already thinking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year. “I am fully scheduling next year with regular competitions,” he said. “It’s easier for me to do that and if things change I can always adjust. I’m planning it with the hopes that we can have it be a normal year.”