The coronavirus is shutting down schools all over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. In the Lower Kuskokwim School District, with every school closed due to the overwhelming high rates of COVID-19, students are starting to adjust to what a remote learning year is going to look like. However, there is one big concern on every student athlete’s mind: will there be sports this year?
KYUK interns Kaylee King, Tatyana Avugiak, Payton Chanar, and Ethan Lincoln sat down with their fellow classmates to discuss the impact that the coronavirus has had on sports this year, and what they are doing to motivate themselves without sports.
Sports in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta play a vital role throughout the school year, from keeping kids active to creating space for community gatherings. Every year, volleyball and basketball are staples. In March 2020, as the coronavirus began to spread throughout Alaska, many athletes were unable to finish out their seasons, despite qualifying for state tournaments.
Clayton Panruk is a senior from Chaptnguak in Chefornak. “It was very disappointing to me because it would be my first time going to state that year, and I’d get to play the last year with seniors,” said Panruk. “We felt pretty sad about it.”
Haley Abraham is another senior in Chefornak, “because we were expecting to go, but this COVID ruined our trip,” she said.
This school year, many of those same athletes hoped to have the regular seasons back, but schools and communities are taking extra precautions to keep students safe.
“They’re making sure they’re using masks, and, like, staying 6 feet away from people, and doing what they need to do,” said Abraham.
With communities continuing to enter lockdown, and schools taking extra precautions to keep students safe, many seniors worry that they won’t have their final year to play basketball. Some students are staying optimistic about the possibility. When asked if she thought that she would be able to participate in basketball this year, Toksook Bay senior Kaylee Lincoln said, “Yeah I really hope so.”
Others, like Abraham, are more pessimistic. “I think they won’t have sports this year, because a lot of parents are cautious for their kids and they don’t have to travel to places, but could go on live videos,” she said.
With no sports and very little in-person schooling, many of these students are having to find new ways to motivate themselves in school. “What keeps me motivated for school is that I’m a senior," said Abraham, "and I want to graduate with the class of 2021.
Nolan Charles in Toksook Bay started a group chat to keep in touch with his classmates.
“I made a group chat to motivate the seniors to do their homework, be on time for school, and that group chat we use to get back school like, we want school back since the community was clean,” said Charles.
When asked how they were dealing with life without activities in school or out of school, Charles said, “Without activities, it’s kind of weird.”
Kaylee Lincoln added, “cause, like, there’s not, like, keeping our mind busy, but like all of school is pretty great. Just making sure to keep our minds busy from all that stuff.”
With COVID-19 outbreaks spreading throughout the region, it’s unclear what the sports seasons will look like. The big question is whether students will return to gyms to play volleyball and basketball this school term; everyone will have to wait and see.