• Dan Russoman

Athletes, coaches making most of tough situations


Sports such as wrestling and girls volleyball were moved to March and April, as those athletes were forced to wait much longer than usual to return to action. (Courtesy Photo)

What has easily been the most challenging high school season in history enters its final stretch this week as spring sports teams begin full workouts as they prepare for what will hopefully be a complete season.


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted every sport at every level, and high school athletics has had to overcome a lot since play resumed last October.


The fall season was shortened, as was the winter campaign, and sports such as wrestling and girls volleyball were moved to March and April, as those athletes were forced to wait much longer than usual to return to action.


The simple fact that there have even been seasons for these athletes is impressive, as administrators, coaches and athletes have worked hard to develop solutions to problems they’ve never before faced.


All are to be commended. The answers to how to play competitive varsity sports have not been easy to provide, but starting with officials at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and moving down to each conference and individual school district, decisions have been made that have allowed student athletes to play during the current school year.


Not everyone has been happy, and the solutions have not always been ideal.


Families and fans have complained about limited attendance rules, especially for indoor sports.


Others are upset that athletes in fall and winter sports were not allowed to play full seasons or be involved in playoff matchups. It’s always easy to complain about what could have been, but while many outside the playing field have made negative comments, few coaches or athletes have had a bad thing to say.


For the most part, all are glad just to be on the field, playing and coaching.


“We were only able to have three meets this season, but at least we had something. It was important for the kids to have some chance, any chance really, to compete,” Hammonton winter track coach Jeff Dey said a few weeks ago.


Many have echoed Dey’s feeling.


“You know what? For a while I wasn’t sure we were even going to have a season. Now, we just have to make the most of it,” Hammonton wrestling coach Dave Mauriello said.


Making the most of it is something high school athletes have been trying to do this year. Most have adapted to the new rules and ways of doing things on and off the field.


Hammonton senior Michael Dogostino tried to put it all in perspective.


“It’s different, but at least it’s something.  We lost the whole spring season last year, but at least for my senior year, I played football and now I have a track season to look forward to,” Dogostino said.


Dan Russoman is the sports editor of The Gazette. Watch him on “Gazette Sports Week” every Wednesday afternoon at www.hammontongazette.com. Follow Russoman on Twitter @DanRussoman.