Photo courtesy of Flickr
With the increased distribution of vaccines, a select amount of students are beginning to return to school. This not only provides improved learning for many students, but it also brings the excitement of returning extracurriculars, especially school sports.
“Social distancing and masks will play a pivotal role in keeping players safe,” WCHS Baseball Coach, Patrick Skellchock said. “We are lucky to have an outdoor sport which makes transmission more unlikely to happen. Players will also need to have their own equipment (bat, helmet, gloves, etc).”
The prospect of returning to a sense of normalcy, especially in something that is a highlight of the school year for many students is exciting. Yet, there is a bittersweet feeling, as nothing will be exactly as it was before the pandemic. All in all, students and coaches alike will need to adapt to these new conditions.
“I think everyone is just glad to be back and won’t necessarily have any negativity because we are back competing,” Skellchock said. “The only challenge is students contracting the virus on their time and spreading it at school. Hopefully we don’t have that issue.”
This brings up a good point. Just because students are being safe at school and on the field, doesn’t mean they’ll be safe off the field; and in sports where students can’t wear masks, one wrong move by a player could have repercussions for the whole team, and even the entire school.
“The details [for the spring season] aren’t known yet but from what I have learned from our coach, our season will start on April 15th and it will go through the middle of June,” Jordan Sklar, a member of the lacrosse team, said. “We also know that our opponents will only be in the county and I think that the plan is we will only play schools close to us that are in our division.”
This plan is a good start to limiting the spread of any COVID outbreaks, but considering the county’s history with handling the pandemic, school extracurriculars seem like an afterthought. Despite this, many private school programs have found innovative ways to continue with in-person activities, and the county could be influenced by these programs for handling school sports.
“I have participated in 2 different lacrosse programs this year and I think both have been organized very well,” Sklar said. “The first one was a fall ball league that most of our Churchill team was able to participate in and it was pretty successful. Although fans weren’t able to sit on the sidelines, they could still watch and the game felt pretty normal. The second team I played for was a club team and they also organized the practices and tournaments very well. My experiences on these teams have been good and it was a lot of fun to be able to play on organized teams again.”
As noted by sports professionals, it can be eerie to play sports with the absence of a cheering crowd. In the NBA, without the noise of the crowd, people watching on TV can hear the uncomfortable sound of sneakers squeaking on the polished hardwood. Nonetheless, there is still hope that school sports will be able to have more spectators as the season goes on.
“If cases continue to drop and metrics are improving, gathering numbers will increase and may allow us to have spectators or more players at practice,” Skellchock said.
As of now, gathering numbers are still relatively low and sports practices will look different than they have in previous years. The county has not announced any specific regulations yet, but with the spring season set to start in about a month, people are beginning to anticipate some regulations.
“Spring sports will be very different this year,” Sklar said. “One main difference is how practices will run. Even when we are allowed back to start practicing I am sure there will be limitations and restrictions that make the practice feel completely different from what we are used to. One other difference is the postseason. We are all hopeful for a state tournament to be played as usual but it isn’t guaranteed right now.”
The county is hopeful that student-athletes will have a regular sports season, but the highlight of the season for many athletes are the county and statewide tournaments that take place after the regular season has ended. This shows the dedication shown by many student-athletes even after the regular season has ended.
“The biggest challenge for this season regarding restrictions is probably how we aren’t able to get in offseason work with some of the coaches” Sklar said. “During normal times, in the fall and winter we would still work together as a team and take part in specific workouts with some of the coaches, but now that everything has been closed or restricted we haven’t been able to workout directly with the coaches.”
Missing these preseason workouts may seem like a minor inconvenience, but this can also have a physical effect on students. With students spending so much time sitting in front of computers, many athletes may be out of shape which could lead to sports-related injuries. Despite the roadblocks, students and coaches alike are hopeful that they will once again get to spend time with their respective teams in person.
“I am pretty excited to participate in sports in person because we lost our season last year and it makes me even more eager to get back onto the field,” Sklar said. “Of course we all need to take the proper precautions when practicing together but I think that everyone on the team and coaching staff are all excited that we are getting a season this year.”