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Olivia Wells
ASU Student Journalist

Paradise Valley adapts to sports with COVID-19

November 20, 2020 by Olivia Wells, Arizona State University


The Paradise Valley Girls' Basketball sophomores, masked and socially distant. (Photo Courtesy: Brittany Fulk)

Olivia Wells is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Paradise Valley for AZPreps365.com.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, and its effects can be seen on Paradise Valley’s athletics. The school's funding and student participation have been hit hard during these times.

“Our game pool funds or ticket sales have obviously dropped dramatically with the limitation of crowd participation,” Paradise Valley district administrative assistant Lori Jackson said.

Paradise Valley’s protocol for games has been to allow two guests per athlete, greatly reducing attendance.  This also eliminates the student section, which makes a huge difference in game day atmosphere.

“Following protocols for keeping social distancing for fall sports,” Jackson said, “so far we have seen a 69 percent decline in funds.”

With the elimination of almost all ticket sales, as well as concessions and other marketing, profits have been reduced. The football team typically holds a golf tournament to help raise funds, but this year it was not possible.

Even though the situation is less than ideal, Paradise Valley is not going to cut corners.

“Yes, funds are limited this year but we still have the same expenses required to maintain equipment, fields and personnel to safely execute our athletic events.” Jackson said.

Paradise Valley also is experiencing a decline in student participation. This could be because parents don’t want their kids to participate. For Paradise Valley, the students participating in sports has decreased 20 percent, and Jackson fears it will possibly go lower once winter sports arrive.

 “Fall sports did allow for more athletic participation and competition since they are outdoor or distancing sports,'' she said. "Winter sports will have more of a challenge with that criteria, so we are not sure what to anticipate if and when winter sports play."

A winter sport coach, Brittany Fulk tries to keep a positive mindset. The girls basketball coach has seen first hand the decline of student participation. “I have a super young team,'' she said. "I only have really three true returners from last year’s team.”

Not only has Fulk not had the usual numbers, it’s harder for the team to meet and bond during these times. For Paradise Valley, winter sports are on hold, so until further notice Fulk can’t do much with the team. It’s hard to set up practices, and nothing can be mandatory. The girls haven’t had the chance to bond over summer and during practice like usual.

“It’s been tough," Fulk said. "During summer is when you have your summer leagues and that’s when you have your team bonding and you get close. And we just haven’t had any of that. With all of this [COVID-19], it’s been a different look for us.”

COVID-19 definitely has made things interesting for Paradise Valley parent Jeremy Boesl. His son Michael is a senior football player and daughter Rhiannon is a freshman volleyball player.

Michael (left) and Rhiannon Boesl (right)  at their respective sports. (Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Boesl)

“It’s been a bumpy ride,” Boesl said. “There was so much uncertainty coming into the season. Lots of on again, off again with practices and conditioning.”

Not only that, but three football games had to be cancelled because of the other team’s quarantine, and the last two JV-B games had to be forfeited due to contact tracing.

“It’s tough on the kids to practice and game plan for a week only to not get the reward of playing the game.” Boesl said.

Even though it’s not ideal, both Michael and Rhiannon Boesl are dedicated athletes who are grateful just to have a chance to play during these times.

Despite all of the struggles, students who participate have proved their dedication to their sports.

“The sacrifices that these kids are making is huge,” Boesl said. “At an age when kids should be social, making new friends, hanging out on the weekends, and enjoying life, they are staying home and missing out. They put their passion for the game and their teams first! The reward outweighs the risk. To be able to learn online, practice all week and play the game without down time with friends speaks volumes to what these kids are giving up.”

For Fulk, she knows that her girls are just as determined to get things going as she is.

“These girls work really hard,” she said. “They’re committed to the process, and I’ve never had a group as committed before.”

While times may be uncertain, Paradise Valley is determined to push through.

“There is no manual for school and athletics with COVID,” Boesl said. “They are learning on the fly. I’m very proud of the dedication of [the administrators and coaches]. They have worked tirelessly to keep the kids on the fields and courts.”