High school sports remain in season amidst global pandemic while collegiate level keep



John Marshall High School Homecoming Football Game (Oct. 9, 2020)

High school sports remain in season amidst global pandemic while collegiate level keep cautious
By Creed Kidney
We are all quite too familiar at this point with how many things COVID-19 has taken, and continues to take, away from us; and while many still remain highly cautious of any kind of breach to protocol or a possible instance of exposure to the virus, some have continued to go about their regularly scheduled and expected programming with little to no changes. Last week we discussed this kind of approach to policy by hearing from one of West Liberty’s own athletes to comment on the additional guidelines being implemented to further ensure such safety is promised to the greater campus population. Most importantly, however, we got to hear how they had been feeling through the whole experience. This week we reached out to two local high school sophomores to get their thoughts on how their school is handling athletics among the pandemic.
When asked about how their school was policing guidelines like social distancing, both students echoed sentiments of how their classrooms has been implemented with plastic dividers and shields, masks were mandatory throughout the entirety of the school day, newly purchased iPads were being heavily utilized to further limit teacher to student contact and vice versa, and strict disciplinary action was being taken against offenders of such protocol. While they both felt generally comfortable with the guidelines being implemented, one student went on to discuss how some of it seems a little counterintuitive to the greater mission of “safety;” “It’s still a little scary to move with the group into packed hallways and full to capacity classrooms knowing that the masks are more so to protect other from your own germs, and do not necessarily keep you completely safe… The fact that people that have become sick only have to quarantine until they receive a negative test result for COVID-19 – almost makes the mask seem pointless. Since the incubation period for the virus is so long, infected people could be coming to school for almost two weeks before actually feeling sick. There’s really no sense of absolute comfort or feeling of “safety” in this type of situation.”
These fears only continue to be expressed when the topic of sports still being in season during the current state of the pandemic is brought into the conversation. While one student believes that sports should be continued purely for the fact that student athletes work hard enough to deserve a full schedule of play, the other continues on to reiterate her points of observing rather backward thinking. Even if the majority of fall sports do take place outside, the stands are inevitably going to become packed with spectators standing closely together, yelling and cheering, trying to get the best view of the game; “… this negate[s] any positives offered by the outside venue. Air circulation won’t help anything if you’re basically sitting on top of one another. And, it must be remembered that players can’t wear masks while they’re playing. So, any spit or respiratory droplets that are inevitably going to be projected out by the athletes that are breathing heavy, will have nothing stopping them. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk at this point for contact sports, primarily being football to be held.”
Yet high schools around the country continue to host games; and without policies enforcing athletes to wear masks while competing and practicing alike, it’s fair to assume that cases are going to rise between high school athletes and students both. While currently the obvious focus is on football, other sports are still going on without much protocol as well. Both our interviewees are high school athletes, one participating in soccer and the other swimming; reportedly, soccer is still happening as it always has but now with the rule of no shared water containers or coolers. No plans for high school swimming have yet been released, but club teams remain practicing without holding any meets between teams.
Both students expressed concern in the social distancing aspect of sporting events even if their school was doing all that they could to ensure their student’s safety, one of the interviewees went on to say that “the passion to protect and prevent that is displayed within the schools isn’t necessarily carried through to the extracurricular activities like sporting events. At least not as prominently.” When asked how they would feel if either of their sports were to be cancelled due to the virus or in efforts to slow the spread, both admitted that they would be extremely upset but understanding of why it was done and support the decision of their school, even if it’s “sad to lose the opportunity to do good.”
It’s safe to assume that all of these sentiments and more are deeply shared by college students alike when asked about their sports and athletic events, whether they participated or not, in relation to the pandemic at large, after all they’re really only a couple years apart; so why does such a divide exist then on the subject of policy and enforcement? Is it because the respective students are at different “levels of maturity,” or that it’s a new environment? Can it be said that high school’s don’t care as much when their students leave the grounds to participate in extracurriculars because they aren’t living on campus like some college students are? What will it take for more policies to be enforced, on a stricter, more conformational basis?
When asked if they believed if anything more should be done to contain the spread of the virus, one student expressed that she feels the prevention methods have become something of a suggestion, and more should be done to encourage people to follow the outlined protocol; possibly even the addition of a fine. The second student shared that he believes “we are doing good.”
But are we?