An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

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The Game's Not Over

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or many Potomac students, one of the hardest things about this past spring was losing a full season of athletics after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As the school community adjusted to online classes, the leagues of which Potomac is a member -- the Mid-Atlantic Conference for boys sports and the Independent School League for girls sports – canceled all interscholastic competition for the spring season. Physical conditioning and skills practice continued virtually, but Potomac’s student-athletes missed practicing with their teammates and being able to put their skills and grit to the test in competition. 

spangler gym

When the campus reopened in late September, more became possible – thanks in no small part to Potomac’s new athletics director, Erica Woda, who had immediately jumped into planning for the fall when she arrived in July.

Erica recalls, “Over the summer, students told me how important it had been for them to have a physical and social outlet during the spring. Even being able to get on Zoom and connect with their teammates and coaches was something they found really helpful. So, in planning for the fall, we made sure we would be giving our student-athletes structure, camaraderie, and skill-building opportunities. We wanted to put the kids in the best position to be productive during this time – while also making it fun.”

Interscholastic competition is still not an option this fall, but with the return of on-campus learning sports practices have been able to take place in person, with appropriate physical distancing measures in place. The Athletics Department decided to run three consecutive off-seasons this fall, so that students would have a chance to experience their traditional fall, winter, and spring sports. This way, every student has had opportunities to work with teammates and coaches to further their abilities in the sports that matter to them. 

The students also have diverse opportunities to train and hone their physical fitness. Erica notes, “We are offering a mix of high-intensity interval training, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and more, so everyone has opportunities to stay in shape.” She adds, “With Potomac delivering its program through a hybrid model, some students are learning at home. So we are also offering online workout classes through which these students can earn their athletics credits.”

She observes, “Having some virtual components in place provides tremendous flexibility. If Potomac has to return to full virtual mode at any point, we know that our student-athletes will still get quality training. It’s really important to maintain a flexible approach in such an unpredictable situation.”

Outdoor Athletics

When Potomac student-athletes practice on campus, safety is always the number-one priority. Erica explains, “We’ve carefully delineated traffic flow patterns in all our athletics facilities, and we have distancing markers in the locker rooms to make sure the kids stay six feet apart at all times. During practices, we pause every so often, so that each student can head to a personalized spot, take a mask break, sanitize their hands, and spray down any sports equipment they’re using.”

Erica says that Potomac’s approach stands out when compared to other schools in the DC area: “We are one of the only programs among our peer schools that is currently running practices by team. Other schools are running things like strength and conditioning, but we’ve actually offered programming for every one of our sports, and we’re really proud of that fact. In some cases, like with squash and wrestling, we’ve had to get creative – those sports can’t be played in the traditional way while social distancing – but we have those athletes running agility drills or practicing their technique using dummies.”

She concludes, “Potomac’s student-athletes are working hard every day, and they continue to tell us how much they appreciate the opportunity to engage in their sports. We’re confident that this period, focused on training and team-building, will set them up for success when we can finally compete again.”

Erica Woda

Meet Erica Woda

I started playing soccer at the age of 4 and ended my official career at the age of 22 as the volunteer assistant soccer coach at my alma mater, Columbia University. Even though I had great personal and team accomplishments throughout my playing days, it is the lessons I learned through sports that I hold most dear. The great wins and the devastating defeats are eventually just lost memories, but the friendships we make, the coaches who become mentors, and the lessons we learn stay with us forever. My mission as an athletics director is to ensure that our student-athletes are meeting their potential on and off the field, court, mat, and pool so that they can lead happy and choice-filled lives. I am thrilled to continue this rewarding work with the staff, coaches and players at Potomac.