Nordic team stays connected through inclusive team culture

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed challenges on many communities, and right now, Saint Paul Academy winter sports teams are facing some unfortunate setbacks. From the government-mandated “pause” from youth sports in December to canceled competitions and practices, teams have had to significantly adjust their seasons. Despite it all, the Nordic team has stayed positive through these trying times by maintaining their team culture of inclusivity and encouragement that has kept the skiers close each season.

Instead of starting the season in November as usual, the Nordic team did not begin practicing until mid-December, and challenges were continuously thrown their way. “Initially, our practices were held over Google Meets, but then in January, we transitioned over to in-person,” captain Jonas Bray said. “Obviously, I’m really happy that we are able to practice, but COVID has made it so much harder to get better, especially when our annual ski trip was canceled and when the season was pushed back in such a significant way,” said Bray.

Bridget Keel is a skier in her first year at SPA and on the Nordic team. Starting the season online was tough for her since she did not know most of her teammates, but once in-person practices started, she immediately felt at home due to the uplifting, non-competitive nature of the team. “The best part of being at practices is getting to see people and getting encouragement from other people while you’re skiing. It’s a really nice vibe there,” Keel said.

Captain Isabel Toghramadjian feels the same, even though as a senior, she is now in her last SPA Nordic season. “I was new to skiing when I joined the team, and I’ve found everyone to be very encouraging and helpful throughout my skiing journey. I try to create the same environment as a captain,” said Toghramadjian.

Many of the usual opportunities for community-building have been cut this year due to COVID-19 restrictions – something that usually brings the team together. Skier Sila Liljedahl said, “Riding the bus as a team was really fun because it was like team bonding.” There have still been chances to build community, though. “Everyone just kind of hangs out together,” Liljedahl said. Practices have also been a great time to connect with one another and cheer each other on.

I truly believe the team community has only been strengthened by the obstacles we have overcome”

— Anthony Chen

This sense of positivity has kept the team going throughout this season. “Despite the precautions we have had to take, this season has been full of growth and enjoyment. I truly believe the team community has only been strengthened by the obstacles we have overcome,” captain Anthony Chen said.

While the Nordic team has fewer meets than usual this year, they are hopeful and excited for the rest of their season. The next competition will take place on Feb. 10th at 4 p.m. at Elm Creek Park.