Pandemic Struggles of a Volleyball Athlete


By Grace Pham

Timeout called on Castle – 3rd set of the game.

Grace Pham, reporter

Ever since the pandemic, everyone’s mindset has changed. Joining a sport was a bit more challenging than usual, mainly because not everyone is in shape due to the two year gap. This is especially true for the girls volleyball team as they started their 2022 season in August. 

Senior Ke’alohilani Yanuaria joined the volleyball team her freshman year. She returned her junior year. She wants to make as many memories with her fellow seniors and her team. During the pandemic, Yanuaria wasn’t able to see any of her friends, which caused her to slowly distance away from them. She started focusing more on herself and was able to mentally heal and relax. She feels that before, everything was rushed and she just had to live in the moment and couldn’t focus on herself.

“Sometimes, you need to be lost in order to find your placement,” said Yanuaria.   There were times when I was so lost and didn’t know what to do but I just waited it out and took my time. I focused on what I had to do in the moment and just went with the flow.”

Playing volleyball was one way for her to find peace. It was a place she could release all her anger, gain happiness because of it, and be at ease. Playing a sport was a great way for her mind off of school and a great way to relieve her stress. Yanuaria suggests everyone play sports in high school. 

“Being on the court, especially with my friends, makes me forget about everything going on. It takes my mind off of the things that happened that day and I am able to focus on volleyball for a couple of hours,” Yanuaria said. 

Senior Jazel Samuelu, also known as Suga, grew up playing volleyball but, due to the decisions she made, she was not able to play for the school team ever since freshman year. Playing volleyball runs through her entire family, but was not able to play her freshmen, sophomore, and junior year because of the pandemic and the poor life choices she made. For her last year of high school, she is doing everything she can to make it happen. She is trying her hardest to allow herself to play for the team her senior year.  

“It was not easy getting to where I am today. I learned a lot from my past mistakes and want to leave them behind and focus on the present and future. I am focusing more in class and making better choices,” Samuelu said. 

Suga said volleyball is harder than it looks. There has to be good communication throughout the team and it’s about trust. As one of the team captain, she tries to step up and be the leader for her teammates. Being a team captain is not easy for her because she has to deal with pressure while her teammates also rely on her.  

“My teammates do their part and I will do mines,” Samuelu said. 

Head coach Carrie-Ann Akana has been coaching at McKinley for ten years. Throughout the years of coaching, season after the pandemic has been very challenging. There are many protocols like, mask regulation, vaccination, negative covid test and we are limited to the things we can do. 

Coaching back then was very simple, everyone knew each other and talked to each other. After the pandemic, all the students were not prepared for the season. It took time to get them all warmed up and talkative. 

“Encouraging students to join volleyball was challenging. Some students were scared of the sport, joining the team with no friends, or scared that they weren’t going to do well. As a Coach, it’s my job to encourage them and let them know that even with no knowledge of volleyball, you can become good at it if you put your mind to it,” said Akana. 

Students this year are still transitioning into high school and getting used to this new “life”, so it will take a little more time than usual for them to fully get used to it. As a student-athlete as of right now, they need to prioritize their health. Coaches want more than nothing to help students reach their goals in a sport they enjoy playing. Coaches love to see the students progress within the seasons they played for them. That is the main reason why coaches do what they do.

“As a coach, it hurts to see my students come to practice everyday and not be able to play because their grades aren’t up. They are student-athletes and they should prioritize school first,” said Coach Carrie.