Wesley VanDevanter, better known as Mr. VanDevanter or Mr. V, is a math teacher at Interlake High School and a coach for the Interlake Girls’ Volleyball team. He first picked up volleyball in his junior year as a manager for Junior Varsity and Varsity due to his sister’s influences. Additionally, he has applied his experiences in playing baseball competitively since the age of 5 to coaching softball.
As a teacher, coach, and athlete, quarantine has immensely impacted these various aspects of his life, challenging his motivations to maintain his fitness and drastically reducing communications with his student athletes.
Before isolation, Mr. VanDevanter had established a routine of coaching and playing volleyball that doubled as exercise and social interaction. This included participating in 6 leagues a week that range from doubles to 6v6 and coaching club volleyball a couple nights a week alongside tournaments most weekends. He had also recently begun coaching softball for the first time, an opportunity which would have allowed him not only to immerse himself in a new sport, but also interact with a broader variety of athletes.
However, due to COVID-19, both the volleyball and softball seasons have been cancelled. As spring is usually Mr. VanDevanter’s most active season as a volleyball player and coach, the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has immensely impacted his life both physically and socially.
As the coach for the Interlake Girls’ Volleyball team, Mr. VanDevanter expresses his frustrations with the cancellation of the season, particularly in “seeing their season cut short when they were progressing so well.” Additionally, he had planned on hosting a Co-Ed reverse 4s tournament at Interlake at the end of March, which would have “raised $1200 for the JV volleyball team to get us desperately needed volleyballs.”
With regards to Mr. VanDevanter’s venture into coaching softball, he feels disappointed that he and the team were “cheated out of a season” due to the rapid escalation of COVID-19.
Even as quarantine continues to restrict athletes, Mr. VanDevanter continues to maintain a healthy fitness regimen that includes “daily bike trips [around] Mercer Island and over I-90” and staying active with his puppy, Nova. He has also occasionally peppered a volleyball with a friend while practicing good sanitization and distancing.
We asked Mr. VanDevanter what he has been up to in his quarantine kitchen. “My girlfriend and I have definitely been cooking more,” he says. “We make excellent tostadas, have really mastered macaroni and cheese with broccoli and jalapenos. But our favorite probably has been create you own pizzas from our own dough. Very fun to do and a lot more satisfying than a store bought pizza.”
Although Mr. VanDevanter has successfully established this fitness routine, this did not come easily, as many other quarantined athletes can understand and relate. During the beginning of isolation, Mr. VanDevanter found that it was difficult to “engage volleyball muscles in a fun way” and that conventional forms of exercise such as running was not as thrilling or rewarding as expected, a struggle that many non-runner athletes have likely also dealt with.
For any active athlete, being parted from the sports they are most passionate about can take a great physical and mental toll, particularly if injured. While Mr. VanDevanter has not sustained any major injuries, he has seen the impacts quarantine has taken on his body. As volleyball helped keep him “active and limber,” taking a long break from the sport has caused him to become “regularly sore from day to day easy activities.”
In terms of the transition to virtual activities and events, club volleyball has engaged in weekly check-ins and drills. However, as many other athletes have likely experienced with virtual training, Mr. VanDevanter reveals that “most weren’t interested in the drills and really just needed a social outlet,” one of the greatest difficulties for the athletes he coaches, both in volleyball and softball.
While difficulties have arisen as athletes and coaches are separated and unable to train as a team, Mr. VanDevanter explains that many club teams have been maintaining healthy fitness habits through working out individually or together, albeit virtually. He has found that “it is hard to have motivation to improve when the girls know they won’t get to play another game this season,” which, though discouraging and saddening, has pushed for many athletes in similar situations to look forward to returning to their passions when safe with greater fervor.
Recently, Mr. VanDevanter has been looking forward to the transition of King County to phase 2, which would allow him to play grass and beach doubles, activities that have helped him “stay positive” and pushes him to stay in shape to prevent injury upon his return. He has already made plans to play grass volleyball 5 hours a day with a group of 4, who have committed to “only play with each other as to not increase exposure to others,” a precaution we suggest other athletes to take regardless of the sport in phases 2 and beyond to prioritize health and safety.
In retrospect, Mr. VanDevanter acknowledges that “it is easy to get discouraged and frustrated, to… cut yourself off,” but reminds everyone that “life will reopen, it is just a matter of time.”
Ask yourself, “what are you doing to be ready to be your best when [you return]?”
While training isolated and away from the team may not be as fun, Mr. VanDevanter pushes us to remember that “these are the skills that make you successful.” He sees the time we have now as an “investment to help me dominate when I get back on the court,” and encourages us to recall that “the competition, the fun, the comradery will all come back and we have to be ready for it!”
Athletes! Stay in shape and improve your fitness now so that upon returning, you are not the one “on the sideline injured” and unprepared, but rather the one “calling the shots!”