Sports teams overcome lack of fans


Stands are full, not with people, but with FatHeads of players’ parents. photo by Ava Berger.

Laine Betanzos, Copy Editor

The athletic department began an adjusted fall competition schedule on Oct. 13, compliant with COVID-19 safety procedures. The change allows the field hockey, volleyball and cross country teams to compete with other Dallas area schools in a safe manner without live spectators.

Director of Athletics Deb Surgi said in an Oct. 2 email that safety procedures require all athletes and coaches both from Hockaday and other schools to complete Hockaday’s daily health screening, including a temperature check, to be let on campus. Guidelines also prohibit spectators at games on Hockaday’s campus, except faculty and staff members.

The athletic department’s decision involved numerous factors including transportation, disinfecting and sanitizing, mask requirements, inside vs. outside events, game protocols, hands- free water distribution, cohort management and Dallas County Health and Human Services Guidelines.

“At Hockaday we all work closely with our Director of Health Services, Erika Herridge, our Chief Operations officer, Joan Guzman, and our Assistant Head of School, Dr. Laura Leathers, to create a workable and successful return to competition,” Surgi said.

Senior Meg Dillon, varsity volleyball player, said prohibiting outside spectators was the right decision.

“I think it was a pretty smart move … because other schools we planned on playing allowed parents and were not requiring masks, and now their whole athletic department is not having games because COVID-19 was spread,” Dillon said. “I think Hockaday made the right decision to prevent anyone from getting COVID-19.”

However, the lack of spectators did force players to adjust. Senior Emilia Callahan, varsity field hockey player, said the team made changes after playing without fans in the first game.

“Because we figured out how to hype ourselves up, we did better,” Callahan said. “It’s just something that we had to learn, because it’s so different.”

Dillon said the same was true for the volleyball team.

“We had to cheer a lot more for ourselves and focus a lot on the bench being very active and cheering after every point since there wasn’t any other noise in the entire gym,” Dillon said.

Head varsity volleyball coach Andy Gass, however, said much remains the same in this altered season.

“We are always pushing ourselves and the team to have best matches whether there are hundreds of screaming fans or fans watching us through livestream in a silent gym,” Gass said. “We push ourselves to always play hard for each other and The Hockaday School no matter the surroundings.”

Because of the guidelines for spectators, the athletic department has implemented ways to support athletes during competitions, like livestreaming each game for remote audiences. Access to these livestreams can be found on the athletics section of the school website, Surgi said.

“We are excited about the addition of livestreaming which brings our events to our fans worldwide,” Surgi said. “This is an addition that we were investigating prior to COVID-19 and became essential once we recognized that spectators would be limited to faculty and staff.”

Livestreaming makes viewing the competitions far more accessible to fans of all kinds, Callahan said.

“It’s cool because I can send it to my family members that don’t live in Texas, who couldn’t watch my games before,” she said. “I’ve heard that it’s good quality!”

Aside from livestreaming, the athletic department has increased spirit in physical ways.

“Athletics and our bookstore have made available the purchase of Fat Heads, which we will be placing out at the next Field Hockey and Volleyball games,” Surgi said. “They will serve as a physical reminder that families and fans are supporting the teams virtually, and it will be fun to see the almost life- sized pictures of fans.”

Though the adjustments have caused some challenges, players and faculty alike remain optimistic.

“Although the season is going to be shorter, our team is going to be much closer because we’re all going through this together,” Dillon said.

Surgi said she looks forward to the winter season with hope despite new challenges, and thanks the collaborators who allowed this solution to be realized.

“I want to say how proud I am of our community; parents, faculty, staff, and students,” Surgi said. “Our community and the world are being tested like never before, and I can say I am proud to be a part of Hockaday’s response to a worldwide pandemic.”

Through all of these challenges and changes, one motto remains the same: #ProtectTheMeadow.