Tennis Team Jumps Back Into Action

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By Shane Kaneshiro

Tennis is one of those sports that is able to return based upon the moderate risk DOE athletic guidelines. Procedures have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID.

Shane Kaneshiro, reporter

The pandemic restricted student-athletes ability to participate in sports during the first three quarters of the school year. This last quarter, spring sports have been able to make a comeback. Tennis is one of those sports that is able to return based upon the moderate risk DOE athletic guidelines. Procedures have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Freshman Christyna Nguyen said started this tennis season with low expectations.

“I only join it for fun, but yeah, I also want to do matches,” Nguyen said.

Since joining the tennis team, Nguyen has experienced ups and downs in tennis. One positive she has experienced was being able to keep her health up.

However, she feels that transitioning from playing tennis for fun to competitive tennis is important.

“I prefer to learn the proper ways to play tennis, rather than just like doing whatever you want,” Nguyen said.

Sophomore Kenta Udagawa said tennis practice builds his confidence.

“I get to be more ready during matches or anytime I play tennis with someone. From my experience, I’m pretty fine during practice but then, every time during matches, I am kind of scared of missing [the ball],” said Udagawa.

Udagawa said tennis is his life. Although this tennis season is short, Udagawa is appreciative of the opportunity to play.

“I have been playing tennis for ten years now. I think tennis is the only sport I’ve been really into since I was little. …  And if I don’t practice. I have nothing else to do,” Udagawa said.

Junior Phuong (Christina) Doan is also happy to have a tennis season.

“I know a lot of sports didn’t get to have a season, but I am very grateful that we got to have somewhat of a season,” said Doan. “I honestly missed it. I miss rushing to practice, putting on sunscreen, trying to do 300 jump ropes in five minutes. I like the experience of it. I really miss that. That’s why I wanted to come back and have a chance to see all the people. And to get a little bit back to normalcy.”

However, with the mandatory shutdown for all sports, returning to tennis was a challenge for Doan.

“The first day back, I had to run around the field and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was gonna die,” said Doan.

However, in gratitude to the safe return to tennis, Doan said, “Everything is so spread out, and (we are) assigned to (pods) at different courts.” At the same time, Doan said, “it gives you an opportunity to meet new people on your court.”

Some players, however, said the risks of contracting COVID-19 were too great. Von Nicholo Escalona chose not to participate his senior year.

“I think my parents were really worried about me catching it,” Escalona said.

Kyle Hiranaga, tennis head coach, has been challenged to bring the students back into condition.

“The most difficult part, so far, is getting everyone up to speed because, during the year off,  a lot of people either didn’t exercise regularly. They didn’t practice tennis,” Hiranaga said.

However, Hiranaga said having a tennis season is a reward in itself.

“I think now there’s more appreciation for being able to be out,” he said.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Hiranaga said they follow many safety precautions.

“We have the daily wellness check that students are supposed to fill out before they come to practice, and, obviously, the biggest change was the wearing of masks during practice and at all times,” he said. “There are smaller things like having a hand sanitizer when we come into court. It is more or less just like guidelines for social distancing, avoiding sharing of water, towels, rackets.”

To get back into practice, the numbers of COVID-19 cases had to drop.

“Nobody could foresee if we’re going to have like a fourth wave of COVID or, you know, the numbers are going up or down,” Hiranaga said. “We’re basically doing our practice in pods … so they don’t have as much interaction,” Hiranaga said.

Team members said they feel the coaches are implementing the safety guidelines well.

Nguyen said, “I think Coach Kyle and the (assistant) coaches are doing very well with it.”

Udagawa said the safety protocol creates a safe environment.

“I think it meets the standards because the coaches tell us to make sure that we’re (6 feet) apart during practice. They make sure that we always have our masks on and apply hand sanitizer every time we leave the court,”  Udagawa said.

For Doan, the strict prevention strategies to maintain health checks and screening make her feel safe at practice.

“I am not concerned about (contracting) COVID because we follow all the regulations and guidelines,” she said.