Nueva Athletics has been able to bring back a number of offerings this spring, as the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) provided guidance to schools across the state. We sat down with Nueva Athletics Director Chris Wade to learn more about what this means for our student-athletes.
Rachel Freeman: How are you feeling now that athletics has been able to get going again?
Chris Wade: I'm feeling really good. It has been exciting, and it's been fantastic to hear our student-athletes laughing and playing and kicking balls and doing all of the things that we know they need for their mental and physical health. It's been fun to pop in and support our teams and help our student-athletes get back into some normalcy.
RF: Take me through how we got here. How did the athletics seasons have to be restructured, and what did CIF and CCS (the CIF Central Coast Section) say that has now allowed Nueva to begin offering opportunities?
CW: CCS restructured the three-season school year into two seasons: they took that fall/winter/spring model that we are all familiar with and they changed it to a season one/season two model. The goal of this restructuring was to really try to get the spring sports that lost out on their entire seasons last year back in action.
However, CIF had to shift the priorities because we got to the point where the lockdown took so much longer than we had anticipated. So we (the community of athletics leadership) changed the question we were asking from, “How do we get our spring sport athletes back in action?” to “How can we get those who can be moving, moving?”
We shifted our focus from what sports missed out to what sports we could do safely. Outdoor sports, therefore, became our focus—cross country, tennis, and golf. And as COVID numbers improved county-wide, we were able offer more and more team opportunities.
The other thing to note is that our rollout plan for athletics aligned really well with the return-to-campus plan Nueva had instituted.
RF: Who at Nueva has been working with you to help get the programs to where they are now?
CW: My number one goal for athletics is to ensure we are aligned with broader Nueva initiatives, and our school leadership has been really helpful with that. They've been responsive, supportive, and clear with helping to keep athletics aligned with the school.
In the athletics department, it has been all hands on deck. Robert Lopez [athletics administrative support and director of cross country and track and field] and Mallory Celaya [athletics trainer] have been so helpful.
I feel a little bit like we've been in a circus—we've been spinning plates on sticks and doing whatever needs to be done in that moment to keep the plates steady. With all of us holding a few sticks, we’ve been able to keep all of the plates spinning.
Our coaches have also really stepped up. Because of the number of simultaneous offerings we currently have, we have needed our coaches to take on more ownership and leadership of their programs, which is great because it has been an area we had been hoping to expand prior to the pandemic. One thing I continue to share with our students and our families is that these seasons are falling in abnormal times for our coaches (with traditional fall and winter sports taking place in the spring). This year has asked all of us, and especially them, to be extremely flexible and supportive. Without their flexibility and their willingness to want to be around and support our students, we wouldn't be able to be doing anything.
RF: Given the sports seasons were changed, what sports were the first to begin?
CW: Girls’ tennis was the first to get going, and we were excited by how well the season went. Our players did an amazing job of demonstrating commitment, follow-through, and resilience. We had some great matches. They were our Mavericks in a sense, our pioneers, our first program out there competing with other schools representing our community in exceptional ways.
Coed cross-country also took place in season one. We had some challenges with our home course this season, as it wasn’t available to us. However, we were so lucky our league peer school, Pacific Bay Christian, allowed us to use their new course over in Pacifica. We had two meets as a team: a preview meet and a championship meet. It went really well. It felt really safe as there was no cross-school mixing, and we had a great turnout.
RF: Season two just began. What Nueva athletics action is happening right now?
CW: Season two began on April 19. We have teams in girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ grass volleyball, girls’ beach volleyball, boys’ tennis, and co-ed golf. We’re also supporting some of our competitive swimmers at two different league meets. We are so excited to see these student-athletes back in action.
RF: Given everything we’ve been through over the past year, what are some of the things you are celebrating about where the program is now?
CW: The commitment of our student-athletes has been really impressive. We rolled out these offerings to help get students moving, while understanding that every student and family has their own level of comfort with this return. So, we were trying not to undervalue commitment and follow-through, but also striving to be flexible in a way that was supportive of our student-athletes.
Students who have opted in to our programs have been following through really well, which I think is a testament to our coaches for making these experiences meaningful for students. I also think we've done a really good job of ensuring these activities are safe.
Another thing I’m celebrating is how intentional we have been around building the return of our program around the four pillars of mitigation. I think we’ve done a really great job of ensuring we are aligned with those pillars.
There is going to be so much more to celebrate in the next few weeks, and I’m really excited for it.
RF: The senior student-athletes haven’t been able to have the senior seasons they likely envisioned. How is Nueva Athletics honoring our senior athletes?
CW: The teams that have already completed their seasons were able to have little social-distance gatherings to honor the seniors and give them some meaningful gifts. The cross-country team, for example, had a socially distant after the final race. It was a nice way to cap the season.
We’re also talking as a department about ways we can highlight our seniors at the end of the school year.
I want to say that I feel so sad for our seniors, who won’t get the send-off that we typically do for our graduates. I have been thinking about our girls’ volleyball players who, last time we saw them on the court, were competing for the state championship. Because of COVID restrictions and player availability, we weren’t able to offer an indoor volleyball season this year, and I know this has been hard for our student-athletes, and especially our seniors. As athletes, we always want to say that we left everything out on the court or field, and for this team they weren’t able to get the chance to defend last year’s success. We know this team, and all of our teams, had such potential for greatness that we’ll never be able to see.
We are hoping that they will want to come back to future alumni events and help build our Nueva Athletics alumni program.
RF: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about our middle school program. What has middle school been able to offer our younger student-athletes?
CW: With the same goal of helping students to be active, our middle school program has been highly successful. Most of the offerings have been through our PE program, in which students are able to get two to three hours of activity each week during their school day. The small-group offerings have been really fun for our students.
In regards to athletics teams, we are offering after-school sports experiences in running, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and racquet sports. Our league is not offering interscholastic opportunities this spring, but it has been great for our student-athletes to get back on the courts and fields and playing on teams again.
RF: Is there anything else you want to add?
CW: There’s a lot more come, which is really exciting!