Coronavirus, Athlete Edition: How the Pandemic Changed the Sports Game

With sports seasons getting back into the swing of things, student-athletes have to deal with new rules in place surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In basketball, we never have all three teams in the gym unless it’s like the big competition gym because we want to make sure that everyone has enough space to stay distant,” varsity player Ainsley Ballard, junior, said. “Whenever we do drills we make sure that the lines are spaced and on the sidelines, we make sure that everyone is not close together, same as when we break out. When we do anything we pretty much have our masks on the whole time.”

And different sports have different rules, depending on how much contact there is and what the sport is like.

“It’s mostly based around wearing spit guards around your football helmet, which basically prevents you from spreading any type of virus, as COVID is,” freshman A-team football player William Hasty said. “It’s a little difficult, you have to wear a mask anytime. We’ve always got to have something covering our face, we got to stay spaced out, we’ll usually have groups of three in a weight group. It’s not too fun, but we’re getting used to it.”

And the new rules and practices go farther than just wearing a mask and staying spaced out. Students have to sanitize before practice and fill out a Google form.

Junior varsity runner Karsten Bobb goes all out at a home cross country meet on September 12. Photo by Will Taylor.

“So we have to fill out a form, like a Google form, every day before we come to practice and basically just it just says if you’ve been in contact with anyone that’s had COVID or if you have any symptoms, and then if you’re practicing virtually or in person.” junior Karsten Bobb, who runs cross country, said.

However, it’s not the rules around sanitizing or preventing the spread of coronavirus that’s been proving the most difficult for student-athletes. It’s socializing.

“Normally we’re so close as a team and we all go out to eat places and obviously that can’t happen anymore because of COVID,” Ballard said.

Bobb said, “When you’re trying to get to know some of the newer teammates it can be a little awkward trying to keep your distance and also introduce yourself, so that’s a little tricky.”

For sports like football with more space, hearing your teammates from across the field has proven much more difficult than before.

“Wearing a mask as you know, kind of difficult to hear people already, and yelling across the entire field is pretty difficult in itself and it just kind of muffles your voice a little bit more, so it’s quite difficult,” Hasty said.

But student-athletes haven’t found all the rules to be detrimental to the game, finding some much easier to deal with than previously thought.

“Well I thought it was going to be a lot harder in the mornings to actually get into practice and make sure that everyone was ready for practice,” Ballard said, “But they have good hand sanitizer, like this spray stuff, and it’s super easy and then they have thermometers that are really easy to use.”

Varsity boys line up at the starting line at the home cross country meet on September 12. Photo by Will Taylor.

And while students are required to wear a mask during practice, with a few exceptions like water breaks in basketball and long runs in cross country, some are finding it easier to adapt.

“I thought it would be a whole lot harder, it was at first, the first day I threw up, but I got pretty used to it and it’s not too bad wearing them now, it just takes time,” Hasty said.

Sports are getting back into the swing of things, with fall sports like football and volleyball delayed for two months. However, there are still restrictions. Only a certain number of people will be allowed into games, and meets and games have been moved more locally.

We’re doing a lot more local meets, which I guess we sort of usually do but they’re a little bit different than usual,” Bobb said, “Because usually we have one sort of more fun meet where we go down to Corpus Christi and we do the Islander Splash, which is sort of like a regional meet preview and we’ll do like a beach Olympics and that’s a really big team bonding event and that’s not going to get to happen this year.”

But hope has not been lost. After putting in hours of individual work over the summer, doing workouts provided by Coach Zimmerman, and doing as much as they can, athletes are hoping for the best.

Hasty said he wishes for, “A winning team, and hopefully, we’ll get somewhere.”

By Cady Russell, Online Editor-in-Chief and Sports Editor

Featured photo by Ariana Garcia

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