Senior seasons stolen by COVID



SHE’S A KEEPER: Senior goalkeeper Lauren Spencer makes a save in the match against Ann Richards in the 2019-2020 season. She was the starting varsity goalkeeper, but she chose not to play during COVID-19.

Naya Tillisch, Sports Editor

Participating in high school sports is normally a stress-free and refreshing way for students to have fun with their friends at school, but in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, that has changed for some athletes. Senior varsity goalie Lauren Spencer and senior varsity forward Neve Sanders ultimately had to quit soccer this year as a result of COVID-19.

“After a lot of thought and consideration, my family and I decided we weren’t comfortable with me being involved in school or club soccer while local COVID cases are so high,” Spencer said.

Spencer was primarily worried about the size of the soccer program and other programs within the district.

“Soccer teams are relatively large with sometimes 20 or more players on each team,” Spencer said. “I felt like between our large girls’ soccer program at Bowie, and the other teams we would be playing, I was increasing my risk of being exposed to COVID-19.”

Experienced varsity soccer coach Carrie Hoffman-Howell has some reservations about continuing sports through the pandemic.

“I have mixed feelings about playing during the pandemic,” Hoffman said. “With the cases growing out of control, we should probably shut down the state of Texas for a couple of weeks to gain control of the disease. However, most people [have been] staying home most of their time since March 2020, and depression cases have risen, and playing sports is a way to avoid depression. I believe sports provide so many positives to a young athlete. It is really important to try to keep it available.”

Sanders felt the district could’ve enforced stricter COVID-19 guidelines, but she understands the difficulties the district is facing.

“I think they could’ve been better at separating the teams, but I do understand it’s hard because soccer is a contact sport,” Sanders said. “I was uncomfortable with being around all the teams, not knowing if they have been social distancing or quarantining correctly.”

Spencer first began debating whether she should play in preseason when the team first began practicing again.

“In a normal year, I would be excited to attend a practice with my teammates,” Spencer said. “However, this year the thought of being around people out of my social bubble made me extremely nervous.”

Though it was a difficult decision for both athletes, Hoffman understood their concerns.

“I had three seniors choose not to play soccer this school year due to COVID,” Hoffman said. “It broke my heart to lose all three seniors under these circumstances. I talked with each one, and I let all of them know that I understand.”

The team has been forced to adapt to this season’s unusual circumstances.

“My athletes have to wear masks the entire time, which can be difficult to exert themselves while trying to breath in a mask,” Hoffman said. “[Additionally], our schedule has changed multiple times this year due to teams having to quarantine.”

Though Sanders stands by her decision to not play this year, she still misses playing and is disappointed her senior year was so severely impacted.

“I missed hanging out with the team, goofing around while we warmed up, and the bus rides and locker room where we would blast music and dance,” Sanders said. “The hardest part is being stuck in the house [without] being allowed to do much or hang out with my friends. I’ve learned about patience and being able to be content with little to no social interaction.”

Spencer feels the same, and she has learned some important lessons through this experience.

“The hardest part of sitting my senior season out has to be that I unknowingly played my last soccer game in March of 2020,” Spencer said. “Through this experience, I’ve learned that I should not take anything for granted, even waking up at 5:30 a.m. to be on time for goalkeeping practice.”

Even with all of the challenges of playing through a pandemic, Hoffman is hopeful the team will have a strong season.

“I hope we get to finish the season and make a strong run in the playoffs,” Hoffman said. “I’m very proud of my team for being patient with all of the AISD and CDC guidelines. They have been following all the guidelines along with me and staying positive for the season. I believe this team has a real chance of a successful season if COVID-19 doesn’t shut us down.”

Both Spencer and Sanders continue to support the varsity soccer team this year..

“I wish the Bowie Girls’ Soccer program the best of luck this season, and will always be cheering them on, just from a distance this year” Spencer said.