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Masking the new norm


Until last year, basketball player and sophomore Kaella Peters said interacting with her teammates was a constant in her life. And now that preseason, in-person basketball training has begun again, Peters said those interactions have slowly returned in modified forms with the additions of social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.

“We’ve all been wearing masks during practices and lifting and everything,” Peters said. “We don’t see each other as much because of all the COVID-19 (protocols), but usually when we do see each other, we try to keep social distancing.”

Despite the safety guidelines athletes must follow, Peters said she still thinks the close relationships on her team have remained even through lockdown restrictions.

“We were still pretty close; we didn’t really have much contact with each other, but once we could do practices, we were kind of just back to normal — (being) friends and talking and all that type of stuff,” Peters said.

Junior and field hockey player Vienna Liu said that one thing she appreciates is how her coach gives the team longer water breaks than they had last year, a time she and her teammates use to talk to each other and to make up for lost social interaction over the past year.

“Masks have been integrated pretty heavily into sports right now, so I don’t feel like it’s made a significant difference in my social interactions,” Liu said. “I guess there’s the six feet thing because when you get water you have to take your mask down, but other than that, just because it’s really normalized, it’s not something that feels like a nuisance.”

Athletic Director and football coach Nelson Gifford said he also believes that the county guideline of wearing masks to the furthest extent possible has just become a normal part of athletes’ lives.

“As coaches, we’re required to wear masks all the time … it’s just what you do,” Gifford said. “We have such good masking compliance here, not only in Palo Alto, but just in Santa Clara County in general, that it’s certainly more common to see someone with a mask than without a mask. And when you see someone without a mask, they stand out because everyone is masked up.”

Liu said that although masks are optional during games and mandatory on the sidelines, she still sees most people playing field hockey wearing them the majority of the time, something she supports.

“I think you should be able to make the decision on if you want to wear the mask or not, but I think it should also be heavily encouraged, which I think it already is — to wear it as much as you can during a game, just because you are exposing yourself to a lot (of) people,” Liu said. “But I understand if you can’t just because you’re running a lot, and it’s really hard to sprint and wear a mask.”

Volleyball player and junior Hillary Cheung said that despite needing to keep on masks throughout practices and games, and also being limited to having drills limited from six against six people to the five against five, she still believes that Paly volleyball’s strict enforcement of mask-wearing has been the right thing to do.

“I think that the masking requirement is definitely something that should be enforced in all sports,” Cheung wrote in an email to The Campanile. “Of course, it’s not the best-case scenario, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. In volleyball, masks are slightly bothersome and can restrict breathing, but it’s not to the degree where it would be impossible to play with them.”

Peters said she thinks most athletes want to be safe and wearing masks is an effective way to stay healthy, even if they do restrict breathing to a certain degree.

“(Breathing) is not impossible or anything,” Peters said. “You can play with them on and be fine — it’s just annoying, and I feel like it’s a lot more helpful when you’re not wearing it. But it’s not some huge thing where if they said we had to wear masks to play, people wouldn’t. I just want to play, so if they want us to wear masks while we play, I’m fine with that.”

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