The Want, the Will and the Hope to Play

liverpool high school 2020-2001

The pandemic brought many new challenges to high school students. School was hybrid, some kids masked up every morning and went to school in-person, and others stayed home and attended class from their bedrooms. For seniors, there was no homecoming, no pep rallies, or school-wide activities that students look forward to every year. The high school sports community in many Central NY towns is close-knit and Liverpool, NY is no exception. In this community, high school sports are played across large school districts, where talented 8th graders can play on varsity teams and by senior year, some of these student-athletes have been teammates since elementary school. 

The decision to allow sports to continue this year gave students back a small sense of normalcy. However, they played with the ever-looming concern that one Covid case could shut a whole team down and keep them from practicing or playing games for two weeks. A select number of fans were allowed to attend games, but for part of the year, no spectators were allowed. Seasons were cut short, sectional and state playoffs were cancelled, seasons were played out of order, and mask requirements remained a challenge for players and coaches alike. 

Despite everything that was abnormal about this year, the athletics staff and coaches did all they could to make these seasons a possibility for the kids. Not even a pandemic could take away the love and dedication these players have for their sports. While it may have felt weird to go to practice wearing a mask, or social-distancing on the bus to a game, these players never let the restrictions phase them. They still showed up to practice every day, they celebrated the wins and mourned their losses and experienced all of the ups and downs of a normal season, plus some. 

The Want, the will and the Hope to Play is a look at the ordinary moments that made up this extraordinary year. And about the coaches, staff and players who fought to play in the midst of chaos. Whether it was a long, late practice, or a winter night game in the pouring rain, the students and coaches of Liverpool high school wanted to play. This project aims to show the heart of high school sports, in a year that was devoid of many classic high school moments, the once energetic student section was silenced and the typical yearly celebrations were either cancelled or turned virtual. But sports remained a constant. High school sports are full of exhilaration, tenderness, hard work, silliness and dedication. Restoring a sense of normalcy in the midst of chaos and uncertainty is what this project aims to convey, and it’s what playing sports was able to do for the Liverpool community this year. 

new rules

Sports were divided into categories — “lower-risk” and “high risk”. At the beginning of the school year, “high risk” fall sports such as football and volleyball were pushed to the spring to form a new season called “fall 2.” 

In the winter, when COVID cases skyrocketed during the holiday season, winter high-risk sports such as basketball, hockey and cheerleading were postponed several times before a 6-week season was finally approved. In order to play, athletes, coaches and staff had to weekly test for COVID, and if a player on the team tested positive, the whole team would have to quarantine.

This process continued into the spring, when the postponed fall sports were allowed to play. Football, boys and girls volleyball and cheerleading all had to follow the same testing protocol. 

We were allowed to have a small amount of fans at the end of the season, which was nice. It made it feel normal and helped keep the energy up during games. 

alyssa dimillo, #1

senior, girls basketball

You’re with each other every day, doing something whether it’s practicing, playing, or team bonding. You’re guaranteed to make friends when you all bond over something you love doing. 

McKenna Ecker, #29
junior, field hockey

As a coach your goal is to always teach the game and win but with this year being the way it was my goal was to really not only teach the game but also make sure the kids were having fun. I put a huge emphasis on having fun this year because these kids have been without sports for so long.

Shawn Muller
boys basketball coach 

For a lot of these athletes, this is their “happy place”
In a giant big world of uncertainty, I wanted to preserve their happiness.

Francesca Beyer Pike
Varsity Cheer Coach

Staying motivated in the water boils down to how much of an impact your teammates have on you. If they are feeling good, you feel good, and all it takes is a word or two of encouragement and you feel faster.

Griffin Merkling
Senior; boys swimming