Beach day and bonding: how sports teams stay connected



TEAM SPIRIT. Tennis players Audrey Senaratna and Anna Nowakowski show team spirit by dressing up in tropical button-down on the day of their match.

Being on a sports team is about more than the game for many athletes. A team can be an opportunity to meet new people who may eventually become close friends. It can be an outlet for energy outside of academics. It can also be a chance to bond with teammates over the trials and triumphs of your sport. It’s a way to find community through a shared passion, one you wouldn’t get anywhere else, that enriches your life for the better.

Unfortunately, that feeling of community was dampened with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, as school closures and quarantine protocols forced many teams to terminate their seasons. Even as sports began to resume with tighter restrictions, COVID-19 altered traditions and activities vital to building community and team spirit took a hit. “I feel like we didn’t have as much of a chance to become like, tight-knit as a group during distance learning,” girls varsity tennis captain Leni Nowakowski said, recalling the start of the pandemic.

However, not all was lost. “There were still some things that we could do,” Nowakowski said. “I know our group chat is usually pretty active, whether somebody has a question about their homework, or somebody has a question about match logistics, or somebody’s just excited about something,” she said.

Girls varsity soccer also found ways to adjust to pandemic life. “To stay connected during COVID-19, we still did team gatherings but would just make sure to do them outside,” captain Lindsay Browne said.

And though the distance that came with COVID-19 restrictions shifted team dynamics, things seem to be returning to normal. “I think the culture is pretty much back to what it was like before COVID,” Browne said. “Our whole Girls Soccer program is really unified this year and practices together every day, which I think has helped us a lot,” she added.

Both teams grow closer outside of game time with bonding activities and traditions. “We do dress-up days for every game day as well as team dinners on Friday nights when we have a Saturday game,” Browne said. “I think this year we are hoping to do even more fun activities as a team like movie nights,” she added. Additionally, GVS makes an effort to support other SPA teams, such as boy’s varsity soccer.

Similarly, girls’ varsity tennis grows community through pre-practice coffee runs and team dress-up days, which can foster new connections for the athletes. “You get to know people that you definitely would not get to know. And it’s fun to be on a team,” girls varsity tennis player Liza Thomas said.
Whether hosting a team sleepover or sharing a smile in the hallways, post-COVID-19 has been crucial to creating a fun and supportive environment for many of the SPA sports teams.