On July 20, the California Interscholastic Federation announced that high school sports would not resume until December, after it became increasingly likely that most California schools would begin the school year online due to COVID-19. We reached out to Nueva Athletics Director Chris Wade to see what that will mean for Nueva sports and athletes.
What has the process of restructuring Nueva Athletics been like for you?
It’s very uncharted. It’s been a lot of collaborating, brainstorming, conversing with other schools, with people in other sections of the state, even in some other parts of the country. . . It’s been a giant puzzle, in a sense, trying to put so many things together. It’s been kind of stop-and-go, take in what we can, share what we think and what we know, and see what might work best.
Will Nueva’s recent decision to go completely online in the fall change any plans you had previously?
It’s helpful to know that we’ll do classes remotely. What we’ll be thinking about in the next few weeks is how that looks for athletics, obviously being cognizant of how challenging a full academic course load is virtually. Hopefully we can be on a sliding scale of self-executed activities for students, and also some connecting pieces of meetings and check-ins. Maybe we’ll look to start some programs in October, because we’re going to reevaluate academics in October.
How will following social distancing guidelines be balanced with team building and community in the fall?
Clear communication. Also, a big part of athletics is routine. Routine helps students. When it’s safest, we’ll be able to build our programs right back up and not miss a beat. But students shouldn’t be training too hard right now if they're intending to participate in the season as it’s outlined—that could lead to burnout.
What are some pre-season opportunities or activities that will be available to students?
Right now [Nueva athletics trainer] Mallory’s offering two classes a week. She does a great job with the calisthenics and flexibility—she’s a great supporter of our students. Hopefully, coaches will offer some synchronous activity sessions along with Mallory, and we’ll offer some activities based on availability as the school year starts. We’ll have our yoga instructor, Suzanne, who teaches classes for students who don’t participate in a sport for PE credit, and her class is now open to the entire community. We’ll allow the school schedule to get a bit of flow, and athletics can find its place to best support students by offering those kinds of activities. I don’t know the amount quite yet; I hope to look at the academic schedule to make it thoughtful and doable for students, and not make it burdensome for being on a screen for so many hours.
Given everything that’s in the way of students doing things related to physical activity right now, will PE graduation requirements change?
What I’ve learned while at Nueva is that our school’s approach to something like that would be on an individual basis. We already offer a ton of flexibility with outside activity PE credit. Also, the requirements are almost adjusted by themselves: normally, the season for a sport would be about 15 to 17 weeks to get PE credit, but now it’s closer to eight to nine weeks. To fulfill PE requirements this year, students only have to do eight weeks of a sport, instead of 15. But if more adjustments to the requirements do have to be made, I can easily see a supportive modification to make sure that no one feels anxiety or pressure to complete them. The first thing I say to students who reach out because they have challenges to completing their PE credit is that it should not be the biggest thing on their minds right now. We’ll hopefully find a plan to support you, and if not, we’ll find a thoughtful, fair, and responsible modification.
What are you most excited for in the coming months?
I’m excited about the creativity and the opportunity that we have. When something comes up that’s outside of our comfort zones, we might not be as quick to jump in, but I hope and think that our coaches won’t be too challenged by that. I’m finding positive ways to say to them, “Hey, guess what? We might fall on our faces sometimes, but let’s give it a try.” I’m excited that, based on what we did in the spring, we have the opportunity for some virtual guest speaker athletes. I’m excited that now in more ways than before, there’s the opportunity to virtually connect Upper School students with Lower School students without worrying about physical transportation. This year we could really strengthen those bonds between campuses.
What are your top goals for Nueva athletics going forward?
This might be a little cliche, but my top goal is that for wherever we land, our programs really reflect our mission. Our mission doesn’t talk about playing and beating Crystal Springs, or playing and beating Menlo, or playing and beating Pacific Bay. Those are silver lining byproducts. Our mission is about students’ experiences being meaningful, the connection with sports and activities being healthy, hopefully passion-building, and long-lasting.
For more information on the Nueva Athletics program, check nuevaschool.org/athletics.