Posted On: 01/11/21 4:54 PM

March 11, 2020 was when the world started to shutdown.  In our volleyball world, I remember being nervous that the Mideast Qualifier would be postponed.  Little did we know what was in store.  For some states, volleyball picked up later this summer/early fall with a few adjustments into the high school season, but the show went on.  However, for Illinois athletes, some have not played in a real event since March 7-8 where it was Bluegrass in Louisville or Windy City Power League.  For Julianna Rettig, a Class of 2023 athlete at Sky High, this upcoming weekend she will get to take the court with real jerseys, lineups, and even a spectator or two to support her at the Prep Dig Quad Cities Clash.  Here is Rettig’s story of “Playing Through a Pandemic”

Quad Cities Clash Schedule

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Julianna Rettig

I have not played an official volleyball match with uniforms, referees, and countless whistles echoing in a gym since the first weekend of March 2020. It has been frustrating knowing that athletes from states around me have played all summer and fall, while Illinois has not provided us the chance to do so. I know this is true for most Illinois volleyball players and athletes, but watching a year of development and exposure disappear before our eyes are hard for my friends and me to accept. I initially had high hopes that I would be going to multiple college camps, national tournaments, and having a high school season in the fall. Still, unfortunately, due to COVID-19 measures, my summer and fall plans fell apart, one right after the other––college exposure camps were canceled at the last minute, and summer high school contact days were cut from weeks to a few days. 

 Due to the shutdown, our club team had practically no gym time from early March until the end of May, so we could not compete in AAU or USA VB Nationals for the first time in my volleyball career. Due to the restrictions and no gym time, I had to become creative to get touches and stay active. I built a passing box out of wood with my mom to pepper on, went to an isolated sand court with overgrown weeds and filled with holes to serve and pass, and continued agility and speed drills in the cold outside in the front yard. Neighbors would see me in our cul-de-sac doing agility work, carrying buckets of water to build leg strength, and peppering with my neighbor who plays volleyball at UW-Oshkosh. Finally, once the fitness club in Wisconsin, where I have a membership, reopened, I met with a personal trainer who designed me a volleyball-specific program. I worked out 3-4 times a week, took up body pump and kickboxing classes, and worked with my dad on volleyball skills on an empty court inside the fitness club fieldhouse. 

My club, Sky High Volleyball, started sending virtual workouts we could do at home, and I did all of those too. As soon as they could open their gym again, I was at one of the club gyms 4-5 days a week and became a gym rat. I did everything from position-specific training, private lessons, open gyms, partner lessons, and played a fall beach doubles league for the first time. However, to play beach, we had to drive up to Wisconsin and deal with the cold, rainy nights that October brings. On the bright side, I was able to go on multiple official college visits, competed in an out of state college ID camp and two college exposure showcases, and was also able to join in on a real college practice with an NAIA college VB team. The college visits and college practice would not have been possible without all the unexpected free time. 

After Sky High moved their club tryouts to September, playing volleyball as a team looked a lot different. We had four weeks of tryout-style, intensive competition while maintaining social distancing, using pods, etc. After team selections, we only had 3-4 team practices at the beginning of October before we were shut down again. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we can only have 1-hour small group sessions with 3-4 players, and we must wear masks, do temperature checks, and leave our equipment bags at home. We sanitize our balls, courts, and hands repeatedly to keep us safe. A few of the biggest challenges I face are not being able to practice with my entire team. I have not even seen some of my teammates since September. We have not had the opportunity to scrimmage or work together, and our first tournament is on January 16. It will be a challenge competing against teams who have practiced all fall and played in previous tournaments. 

It’s not easy playing with new restrictions and requirements. Wearing masks is challenging while being active. It is difficult to breathe while on the court, and I am continually adjusting my mask so it stays above my nose but low enough to see clearly. With remote learning, virtual workouts with the high school team, and pushing our season to the spring, it is hard for me to believe that we will still have a high school season in 2021. We have not had a high school volleyball team meeting or activity since the couple of workouts we had late in the summer. I am trying to stay positive, but it is not easy when others around you are going to in-person school, playing volleyball, going out to eat, spending time with family, and living life more normally than we have been able to. I cannot wait to move forward and leave this virus in our past. 

Julianna Rettig 

Class of 2023 – Libero/DS 

Sky High Volleyball Club (IL) 

Antioch Community High School