Firebirds in Full Force

Firebird athletic competition in 2020-2021 was an all or nothing proposition.
In the fall, tryouts, practices and games were all on hold due to COVID. Stuck at home and without a regular outlet for their active bodies and competitive spirits, student-athletes pined for their sports. Coaches found themselves desk-bound, and parents missed their regular cheering sessions. In fact, it felt like there would be little, if anything, to cheer about.
Fast forward six months. After waiting and hanging on the California Interscholastic Federation’s every word, in March high school athletics in San Diego came to life. All. At. Once.
“As an institution, we were in a great position because we had been working with CIF and the California Department of Public Health all year. Our new athletic trainer, Melissa Guney-Fryan was critical in helping us be prepared. Once the decision came through, we just flipped the switch, opened the doors, and said ‘let’s play,’” said Athletic Director Don Collins.
And play they did. With the exception of water polo, beach volleyball and surf, every upper school sport Pacific Ridge offers competed in the spring. Athletic directors around the county worked tirelessly to keep athletes safe while meeting the very real challenge of creating enough available space for their teams.
“Our facility use was like a carousel,” Coach Collins explained.
“We always had two teams practicing at once on the courts and the fields. One group would leave, and others would come right in on their heels. The kids were busy too – some of our athletes were playing multiple sports or playing their club sports at the same time. Players would finish one practice and head right off to another.”
The intensity of the schedule is reflected in the numbers. From the first team trainings of the season to the final CIF competitions, Firebird athletes participated in 515 practices and competed in 215 games, matches, and meets.
Coach Collins compliments his entire athletics staff, coaches, players, and parents for making the upper school “super season” a success.
“There was an incredible amount of ownership, flexibility, and trust. The season ended up being successful from a competitive standpoint, and everyone was willing to give and take.”
Four teams – Girls Volleyball, Boys Volleyball, Baseball, and Golf – won their respective leagues. Coed Tennis reached the CIF finals, several individual athletes competed for CIF honors in Track and Field, and almost every team qualified for playoffs. Due to the circumstances, some teams opted not to pursue playoff runs so their players could participate in global travel – another important experience after months of lockdown.
Reflecting on the year, Coach Collins thinks the season proved what is possible when we all work together.
“The goal was for all of us to do whatever it took for our athletes to play. Everybody was aligned, excited, and willing to put in the extra effort. There was so much joy this season – it was great to be a part of.”