The St. Anthony’s boys soccer team is embracing its new normal.
With players and coaches wearing masks, the Friars returned to the field on Wednesday for their first team activity of the season, opening up with a clinic. And while it wasn’t what the group has been accustomed to in the past, simply having the opportunity to play was cause for excitement.
"It’s definitely different because of all the masks and social distancing," junior right back Zachary Beach said. "We’ve been through all these tough times because of COVID, but we’re finally back out on the field and I’m just stoked."
The 49-page document of guidelines for the resumption of fall sports released by the NYSPHSAA’s COVID Task Force, called for athletes to wear face coverings at all times "unless unable to tolerate face covering for physical activity."
Still, over 30 players came out for the clinic, beginning the afternoon with a socially-distanced run around the field. St. Anthony’s, which captured its first CHSAA state championship since 2014 last year, will hold several more clinics before tryouts, with hopes to start playing games in October.
"We’re really happy to be together," junior midfielder Jakob Friedman said. "It’s nice to get back and start playing with my teammates again."
Coach Don Corrao, taking over following long-time head coach Gene Buonaiuto’s retirement, said the Friars began preparing for this season, and all its protocols, well before the squad laced up its cleats.
"We’ve had a couple of Zoom meetings with parents and everybody," Corrao said. "They understand what’s at stake here is not only the possibility that, if they don’t do the right thing, derailing the season, but they can derail school. So, there’s a lot on the line."
"The main objective," he added, "is to try and keep the boys as safe as possible."
After Nassau and Suffolk postponed their fall sports seasons to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Anthony’s players were even more grateful for the chance to play. And it’s a chance they’re determined not to waste.
"Everyone’s excited to get back on the field and prove they deserve a spot so we can win another championship, " said senior center back Owen Byrnes. "The new normal is crazy. It was different for us, but I think now everyone’s ready to go."