Sharp white lines, tightly stretched nets and royal blue pavement reflecting the school’s colors adorn the new and improved tennis courts at Orange Coast College. However, something is missing: the athletes.
Team practices remain on hold as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. According to the New York Times tracker, at least 1 in 20 people who live in Orange County have been infected, and at least 1 in 1,720 have died since the start of the pandemic.
Previously, the Coast Community College District had approved training for athletes on its campuses.
“I feel safe returning to practice because tennis is a pretty socially distanced sport, so the contact is very minimal,” said Madeleine Veltri, a freshman on the women’s tennis team. Aside from practicing social distancing, athletes must also wear face coverings.
Although there is no protocol for testing at the moment, this may change when the tennis season starts in the second half of spring.
“We may get tested once a week to be eligible to play,” Veltri said.
Shayee Sherif, a sophomore on the tennis team, is eager to return to practice. “I am so excited for the season and to be playing with my teammates again,” said Sherif, whose overall record last season was 33-1 in singles and 26-1 in doubles, helping the OCC women’s tennis team win the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Tennis Dual Team state championship.
Sherif hopes to break more records. She also hopes to transfer to a four-year university and continue playing tennis and studying English.
Playing and having the opportunity to compete is critical for athletes hoping to be recruited to play for four-year universities or professionally. Recruiters often go to colleges to seek out talented athletes.
There is a long list of professional athletes who started their careers at OCC. Steve Timmons, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in volleyball started at OCC before transferring to the University of Southern California. Sergio Romo, a Major League Baseball pitcher who has played for the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, also started at OCC before transferring to Arizona Western College. Additionally, numerous National Football League players began their careers at OCC - among them is Eddie Johnson, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions and more.
Nevertheless, college sports isn’t just about pursuing a future as a professional athlete.
During a time when many people are separated from their families, being a part of OCC’s women’s tennis team has provided much needed camaraderie.
“My favorite things about being on the team are all of the girls I’m making connections with and playing with girls who are at or above my level, which is making me better as well,” Veltri said.