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Sports During the Pandemic

By: Amy Boehm

It is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about challenging times for all, with many people longing to return to their old lives. In an attempt to create a sense of normalcy for student-athletes, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has allowed certain sports to participate in the fall season. The boys’ and girls’ cross country team, boys’ and girls’ golf team, girls’ tennis team, and the girls’ co-op swim and dive team are all able to compete this fall. While it is unfortunate that not all sports can compete this season, it is great that this limited number of sports are able to safely commence in the coming weeks.

Not every sport is allowed to participate in its usual competition season; however, the IHSA has made plans to accommodate higher-risk sports and allow them to compete at a later date. For many sports, such as football, this means that the spring of 2021 is the next time they will be on the field.

Before the IHSA had made their final decision regarding which sports to allow back in the fall season, there was growing controversy surrounding the topic. Some members of the community did not think it was safe to have students return to practices and competitions, and they did not hesitate to voice their opinions to the athletic department. On the other hand, most high school students were in favor of safely continuing their sports. “I think it was a good idea[to open up athletics]. Sports are what keeps student-athletes going. You look forward to seeing your teammates and competing, and to take that away would make these times even worse,” says Emma Beausoleil, a junior on the girls’ cross country team. Cross country boys and girls wear masks anytime they are on the school campus, but they are allowed to remove them when going out for a run so long as they maintain a distance of six feet from their teammates. Casey Morrison, a football player, comments, “Most sports continue wearing masks and taking safety precautions, so while doing this I think they can play their desired sport.” It is clear that being safe and cautious of the dangers associated with the pandemic is a top priority when practicing, and most students and coaches feel that the precautionary measures they take prevent the spread of the virus.

It is still important for student-athletes to keep their skills sharpened, even if they are not competing in the fall season. Therefore, each sport is allowed a certain number of contact days to practice with their teams from September through October. Although students are allowed to participate in these sports, they don’t look the same. All athletes and coaches are required to wear a mask or face covering during meeting times, with no exceptions allowed. Will Fletcher, a junior on the Wheaton North baseball team, remarks: “I find it very hard to breathe and operate at peak performance when having to wear a mask. Masks make it difficult to breathe freely when working at high rates of intensity.” Athletes and coaches are also expected to remain 6 feet apart from others whenever possible, and the rules are strictly enforced.

It is incredibly unfortunate that not every sport is allowed to play normally. However, it is important to remain grateful that any fall sports were allowed to occur without any big hiccups in the first place. The contact days that other sports were allotted are helpful to prepare them for their future seasons, and remaining safe during these unusual times is important to ensure later success. Hopefully, our school will continue to help sports flourish throughout the rest of the year, allowing us students to safely support and cheer on our Wheaton North athletes for many seasons to come.

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