COVID-19 protocols spark discussion for student athletes

While WS athletic facilities have reopened to the public again, mask mandates indoors and other COVID-19 safety protocols are still in effect.

Photo courtesy of Brendan Talbot

While WS athletic facilities have reopened to the public again, mask mandates indoors and other COVID-19 safety protocols are still in effect.

As the fall sports season kicks off, let’s revisit how athletes are keeping safe during the pandemic and what they think about the safety precautions.

To begin, let’s go back to last year’s sports season to compare and contrast how precautions have changed or stayed the same.

Over the last two years, the global pandemic has hindered Spartan sports in many ways, such as restrictions like mask mandates, social distancing requirements, and occupancy caps negatively affecting our student-athletes. 

“The [COVID-19] safety protocols affected the football program in loads of different ways,” said sophomore Jacob Kerr.

“The masks that we wore over our helmets made it harder to see and breathe while playing. It cut our season in half so we had six games instead of ten. The amount of people allowed in the stands was cut down so our friends couldn’t see us play.”

Last year’s “fall” sports were full of COVID-19 safety rules, many of which students were not a fan of. For example, masks can make it hard to breathe while running or working out. Additionally, spectator rules made it difficult for friends and families to watch them compete, which can be a big morale drain. 

This fall season, COVID-19 regulations have differed from last year’s “fall” season. For example, mask mandates have been reduced. 

“[COVID-19] safety procedures made breathing in football harder, and they’ve changed this year by removing the mask on the helmet allowing us to breathe again,” said sophomore John Lock.

This fall, athletes are not required to wear masks while in motion or during strenuous activities, such as weight lifting or running. Although some things have stayed the same, like last year, students still can’t share water.  

“We also don’t have shared water, like coolers and water cups, so we adjusted to bringing our own water bottles,” added sophomore Cael Alonzo.

Access to water can be a big issue for sports, especially ones like cross country, and the lack of shared water can make things difficult. Lack of water can also be dangerous, and to help counter this, FCPS requires athletes to bring at least 32 fluid ounces of water. They keep track of this using the same google form check in as last year,  which asks students about their sport, skill level, water, and any potential COVID-19 symptoms. 

“We’re more focused on who we are in contact with and [the cross country team] have to check in via google forms and managers prior to the practices,” said sophomore Cael Alonzo.

Despite all the loosening of COVID-19 protocols, this year is still vastly different from pre COVID-19 years. 

“I would say this year is still pretty far from normal with [COVID-19]. And yes, I am worried  about [COVID-19] and how it has already impacted us. As long as we get vaccinated and continue to wear our masks nothing is going to change,” said sophomore field hockey player Katie Tragakis.

Even with all these worries and regulations, this fall is looking like a promising season for WS athletics, with a true fall season, spirits are high. Even though students are happy and excited, COVID-19 is still spreading, and just because sports are going back to normal doesn’t mean we should stop being safe.