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‘Exhausting, but worth it’: Chapelgate athletics successfully navigating return to play this fall

The Chapelgate and Covenant Life boys and girls cross country squads compete in an October meet at Chapelgate.
The Chapelgate and Covenant Life boys and girls cross country squads compete in an October meet at Chapelgate. (photo courtesy of Chapelgate athletics)

One day at a time.

It’s an overused cliche, but Chapelgate Director of Athletics Ken Krabitz says it’s an appropriate characterization of the mentality he’s adopted the last few weeks as the school’s athletic programs have returned to competition.

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“The way things are constantly changing, I’d almost say that you have to take things one hour or even one minute at a time. Flexibility right now is a must,” Krabitz said.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland announced on Oct. 12 that its member schools would be permitted to move forward with an open schedule this fall. Eight days later, on Oct. 20, Chapelgate hosted its first official athletic competition — a cross country meet against FCA.

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In the two weeks since, the cross country, volleyball and boys soccer teams have combined to compete another nine times.

Krabitz says it’s been a whirlwind trying to keep everything in order and running smoothly. Coordinating game schedules, practice times, transportation and the different safety protocols that each school has in place have made for long days.

Seeing how much it means to the coaches and athletes to finally be back on the fields and courts, however, keeps Krabitz motivated.

“There’s no question … it’s been exhausting, but it’s worth it. You can see how much this means to our community here,” Krabitz said. "And, honestly, everything really has gone well so far for us. A few minor things, sure, but nothing we haven’t been able to fairly easily work around.

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“It’s just been a very busy few weeks. When you think about it, we’ve basically condensed a process that usually takes a couple months into a couple weeks. Luckily, we’ve finally got most of the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Girls soccer is the only originally scheduled fall program that isn’t currently operating as anticipated for the Yellowjackets. After a handful of individuals participated in the school’s twice-a-week fall training schedule, there ended up not being enough players once the season formally began to create a team for competitions.

Conversely, the volleyball team has been Chapelgate’s busiest program. The team has already played four times in a little over a week since kicking things off on Oct. 22.

Varsity volleyball coach Stephanie Smith points out that, while it’s been a successful return, volleyball does face huge variations in regulations from match to match based on the schools involved.

Chapelgate doesn’t usually require players to wear masks while on the court, but in a home match against Concordia Prep both teams wore them at the request of the visitors. Chapelgate isn’t allowing spectators in the gym at home matches this fall, but when the team traveled to face St. John’s Catholic Prep, each player was allowed to have two immediate family members in the stands. And, later this fall, after otherwise playing a completely indoor schedule, the Yellowjackets are slated to play an outdoor volleyball match against Garrison Forest.

“Outdoors, on grass, in November … should definitely be interesting. But we’re all kind of just embracing that this is a season unlike anything any of us have gone through before and trying to make the most of it,” Smith said. “Honestly, right up until the announcement [by the IAAM], our mindset was that there weren’t going to be any games this fall. So, to now have a schedule of 10 games before Thanksgiving, is pretty crazy.”

While no spectators are allowed at home volleyball matches, Chapelgate has been able to stream the games live online via a YouTube channel it started in the spring.

Originally, the channel was created to spotlight signing ceremonies and provide recognition for the school’s athletes during the coronavirus pandemic. But, now, the streaming of games is providing an opportunity for athlete’s parents, family and friends to stay connected without the ability to be there in person.

“In the long run, this may actually be something that is a positive that comes out of all of this. Our hope is that we can continue streaming games for basketball during the winter and potentially even our [theater department] plays. Then, maybe in the future, we can grow to include some of our outdoor events as well,” Krabitz said. “Streaming is something we have discussed in the past, but never really gotten off the ground. Now the pandemic has kind of forced us to make it happen out of necessity.”

Finding silver linings and adjusting on the fly is as important as ever, according to Krabitz. Things are certainly different than they have been in the past, such as the boys and girls cross country teams running simultaneously in combined meets for the first time. But it beats the alternative, Krabitz said.

“It’s different, but we knew that it would be,” Krabitz said. “The most important thing is that we are finally able to provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete in a safe environment. They’ve waited a long time for this.”

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