Athletics Procedures for Facing COVID-19

Hannah Carl, Reporter

This fall season is different from any past season. Since our school has decided to open up sports again, the athletic department needed to change some rules to prevent any COVID-19 cases.

As a result, coaches and our Athletic Director Gary McChalicher had to attend department training on sanitation and screenings in June. This training prepared them for cleaning and sanitizing as many possible surfaces and objects that team members may touch.

Before practices or games, coaches will take each athlete’s temperature with a touchless thermometer, and will ask three questions. “Do you have a new onset of a cough or shortness of breath?” “Have you had a fever or felt feverish?” “Have you experienced known exposure to a person that has tested positive for COVID-19 or one that is exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19?”

Just like in-school learning, athletes, coaches, spectators, and athletic trainers have to wear a mask at all times. Players on the field may participate without a mask, but must put one on when benched.

Freshman field hockey player Margo Channel had much to say about the new mask rule. She said, “I feel that it’s very difficult wearing a mask on the bench after I’ve been sweating really hard, and just playing field hockey, overall, just gets me really active, so wearing a mask does not help, but it’s ok, we can get through this.”

Also, there is a no sharing of water bottles rule; each athlete must come prepared with their own. Though, if they forget one, there will be recyclable, non-reusable bottles of water with coaches.

Some sports have specific requirements, such as field hockey. They are permitted no more than seven athletes per team on the field at a time. “We have had to do seven versus seven instead of 11 versus 11 on the field. So we had to shorten the amount of players on the field sometimes for games because of COVID,” said Channel.

In addition to limited athletes, sports began with limited spectators as well. Though Governor Wolf didn’t make it mandatory to have limited spectators, he did recommend it. As a result, the athletic department decided to limit it.

McChalicher said, “[…] the initial decision was to allow up to 250 people outside and 25 people inside, which basically eliminated fans from being inside.”

This decision, while elective, was a result of concern for student and community health. McChalicher expressed that as part of the decision-making team, they asked themselves what if we didn’t limit fans, would it be our fault or the PIAA if we had gotten more COVID cases? The answer was that they decided it was best to try and limit that possibility.

Coming up to the winter season requires the school to consider new rules and changes for COVID protection.

“I think a lot is going to have to do with how much we learn about the disease. We could learn in the next three months that maybe we went overboard and we didn’t have to be as cautious as we were, or we could learn in three months that we weren’t cautious enough,” said McChalicher.

But for the athletes playing a sport now or in the future, the rules aren’t likely going to change.