Playing in a Pandemic: What High School Sports are like with a COVID lens

The new coronavirus, COVID-19, revamps the way athletes practice and play, in games, and on the sidelines.

From an athlete’s perspective, the game changed into one that’s a new adjustment for everyone. Sports now stick to new and safer rules and this requires meeting different standards.

“It’s actually a lot different. After I get off the game and come on to the sideline, I’ll be tired, I’ll be breathing hard. And then I have to put on my mask after I get out of the game. So this is very different like that,” Nathan Earle, junior football player, said.

Varsity football raises helmets at the end of the game versus Cypress Ranch on October 22. Since shaking hands isn’t allowed because of COVID, this is how they show sportsmanship. Photo by Abbey Roberts.

All sports implemented strict safety guidelines to keep the athletes safe and healthy for competition. These rules prove difficult to adjust to, but it’s the price they pay to play. A lot goes into the process of making sure no one contracts the virus, so the participation from the athletes needs to be at 100%.

“Since COVID, a lot has changed, like now we have to wear masks on the bench, make sure to social distance when we are not playing, and make sure to sanitize since we are always touching the balls, but they also make sure to clean the balls,” Kennedy Kays, sophomore volleyball player, said.

Athletic programs in the area continue to follow the school district and CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to keep the athletes and coaches protected.
These safety measures can be critical and they work well, but not without the help of the coaches.

“I actually don’t think too hard about it. Like I said, Coach Raffield is doing a great job keeping us safe to the point where I don’t even think about getting sick on the field, and I think we will be fine,” Ayden Montgomery, junior football player, said.

The athletes hold a role in keeping their season alive by maintaining everyone’s safety. The thought of losing their sport for a period of time to this global pandemic has hit the athletes in ways that drive them to appreciate their sport more. Players don’t only take care of business on the court or field but also whenever they’re in school or out in public.

“In the classroom and in the hallways we are all being responsible by wearing masks, sanitizing and washing our hands, and social distancing for respect for each other and our families. Just taking precaution and being aware of our surroundings and what’s going on” Karryn Duncan, sophomore soccer player, said.

Athletes are taking advantage of the quarantine to improve their skills and develop for the school season. Working hard in the off-season matters just as much as practicing during the season. For Earle, the time given to athletes during quarantine to work out freely and recover works in his favor.

Varsity volleyball stands socially distanced as the National Anthem plays before the game against Cypress Ranch on October 30. Photo by Madison Clay and Charleigh Thomas.

“Because in quarantine, with no school, no places I had to be, I could go lift whenever I wanted to. I could go run whenever I wanted to. I could eat whatever I wanted, and whenever I wanted to. So it really allowed me to get prepared, and just work out as much as I could and just push myself,“ Earle said.

Shifting to a season after experiencing a long break in quarantine can be long and strenuous. The reality hits the players that their sports could be stripped from them at any moment. Although, that’s exactly what’s pushing the players to keep their seasons alive.

“It was hard at first because you’re not used to the mask and social distancing, but we also knew we wanted to have a football season so we adapted quickly,” Montgomery said.

Teams continue to meet together for practices and games. As long as they follow guidelines set by the state, their season continues on track to finish out.

“I think [the safety measures] are working,” Earle said.“considering throughout the whole summer that we’ve been training together, and throughout the beginning of the season that nobody on our team has tested positive. So either it’s just a blessing, or these safety precautions work”.

No one knows whether COVID-19 will continue to take priority in sports, however, if it does, these athletes are more than ready for it.

“I’m not sure how long these rules will last but I feel like in a way all of this could become our new normal,” Kays said. “If they do let up I think it will take a little for things to go back to normal.”