Fall Sports in the COVID-19 Era
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
With the ongoing pandemic, a lot of changes have been made across the country to keep people safe. Daily tasks such as going to school and grocery shopping are completely different from previous years. One could argue that high school sports are the most demanding extracurricular to manage amidst the pandemic.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has redefined their guidelines for fall sports numerous times. At first, the CIAC pushed back every sport’s starting date and practices were much shorter than usual, consisting of an hour maximum per cohort. Overtime restrictions changed and loosened. However, the main idea of guidelines are mostly the same.
In many sports, team members had to fill out COVID-19 surveys. Each survey consists of numerous questions about if athletes have been displaying any specific symptoms of COVID-19. The assessment also checks the athletes’ temperatures, if athletes have left the state within the past 14 days and if the athletes have cared for someone with the virus.
“We are told if you have any symptoms of any sickness, COVID-19 or not, to stay home,” said Alex Yu, a sophomore on the water polo team. Guidelines varied slightly for each sport but have the same basic requirements: social distancing and wearing masks.
Sofia Devito, a junior on the soccer team, explained that tryouts were very different this year because student athletes were only allowed to practice with small fragments of their team at a time.
“Before the tryouts actually happened, we were split up into cohorts of 10 girls, and we would practice with the coaches… it was basically tryouts for two weeks before the real tryouts as they got pushed back.” Devito also spoke about how, once the team was finally chosen and tryouts were over, restrictions loosened up a bit. “In the beginning of the season, we couldn’t scrimmage so drills were different,” she said, “but as time went by, we were allowed to scrimmage and practices became more normal.”
Another sport hit hard by the virus is waterpolo. It is a contact sport like soccer, so it can be difficult to hold safe practices, especially when players can’t wear masks in the water and practices take place indoors. Yu said the season has been hard to manage, but he still really enjoys the sport.
“I feel that this season is new, and it’s strange for each team to adapt to COVID-19 and not quite as good as last year,” he said, “but it is great that teams are still able to have somewhat of a season.” According to Yu, traditional tryouts did not take place this year. Yu said, “In order to limit the size of practices, the size of practice groups were decided before the season rather than during the season.” He added that, because of this, the team is unable to get together at once. “Practices had to become more divided, less games than before and no weight room this year.”
While some teams had difficulty bonding, sophomore volleyball player Lana Korsun explained how her team focused more on the connection between students.
“We try to do shoutouts to recognize people to make them happy and overall have more bonding and positive energy this year,” Korsun said. Even though this year has definitely taken some strange turns, Korsun said she is grateful to have a season at all. “It's been difficult. It's really taken a toll on my body because I’m sweating, and I’m playing in a mask, which makes my heart rate go up, like everything that a mask would do. But I love playing, so I will do whatever I have to do to play.”
Normally, there is some sort of championship at the end of the season for each sport. For CIAC sports, there is usually a Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) championship, and, if the team ranks highly enough, they make it to states. Some sports, such as swimming, have opens after that, and others, like cross country, go all the way up to nationals.
“We have not been told yet what is happening with our championship meet this year,” said Leia Wilson, a sophomore who runs cross country. This year is her first year participating in the season, and joining during a pandemic was not easy for her. Wilson said, “I still think it feels weird when we are running together without masks, but I know it's okay because we are all social distancing.” Most of the decisions about championships, and even future practices, are still occurring; guidelines for each sport are changing daily, so it is hard to say what will happen.
At the end of the day, athletes are just grateful they have the opportunity to play fall sports at all.
Devito said, “I am just happy that we still get to have a season because some sports teams aren't as fortunate.” Athletes and coaches are trying to have a more positive approach. The student body at GHS is not letting the pandemic slow down their excellence.