With the dominance of COVID-19 in our everyday lives, our world has been turned upside-down. Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer have become essential. We must social distance ourselves from the people we know and love. As a result, high school sports have become a mess of restrictions and guidelines in order to keep athletes safe. In high schools around St. Louis, a number of student athletes have been affected, as they have had to change the way they train and play in order to ensure the health of themselves and others.
For Micah Frank, a junior at Parkway North High School and member of Central Reform Congregation, restrictions have made his varsity soccer season much different than any other.
“We wear masks to and from games and practices, and we didn’t take the bus anywhere,” said Micah. “Also, the coaches put us into three groups to play. We couldn’t interact with any of the other groups while we were playing so that if somebody got COVID, not everybody would have to sit out.”
Additionally, for most high school students, the restrictions never remained constant. Throughout the season, players didn’t really know what was going to come next, or if they would even be able to play at times.
“The thing about the restrictions, in general, is that they’re constantly changing. At the end of summer break, we didn’t even think we were going to have a season, and we didn’t know what to do,” Micah said. “However, we eventually did have a season, though we missed over five games. [Also], for example, one day at a practice, my coach received a notice from (St. Louis) county about a new restriction of play.”
Though the restrictions made it difficult to play at times, they are necessary to keep the community safe.
“You have to be careful, not only because you could be jeopardizing the safety of your team, but also everybody else around you,” added Micah. “You have to be vigilant about what you do. [COVID-19] affects everyone around you: your family and your friends. I’m thankful that restrictions were put in place for the safety of those around me.”
Sarah Pernik, a member of the varsity cheerleading team at Ladue Horton Watkins High School as well as member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, has also had a strange season due to COVID-19.
“We have to be socially distanced and we have to wear masks during practice,” said Sarah. “The coaches give us certain spots of ground that are 6-feet apart. We’re not stunting right now because we would have to touch people. Also, the masks make us quieter, so it’s more difficult to [vocally] cheer.”
Like Micah, she, too, recognizes the importance of the changes in the season.
“I dislike the guidelines because personally, it makes me quieter and it’s more difficult to breathe,” said Sarah. “But, I understand that it is for our safety and for the general health of everyone around us. Even though it is less fun, it’s for our safety and for the good of everyone.”
For Sasha Albright, a sophomore at University City High School and member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, the fall sport restrictions have affected some of his plans.
“During the football season, I usually go to the homecoming game and other rivalry games,” said Sasha. “At homecoming, specifically, most of the school goes. It doesn’t matter who you are or what grade you are in; we’re always there cheering on our team and rooting for them to win. University City is doing the alternate option and having the fall season in the spring, so we didn’t have a homecoming game this year.”
And while missing out on sporting events isn’t ideal, most fans recognize that it’s a sacrifice that has to be made.
“I think that at this time, we know really nothing about the coronavirus. It’s so infectious and dangerous, and the U.S. is a hotspot, so at the moment, having sports is dangerous,” said Sasha. “Safety is the number one key to staying healthy right now, and it’s about being aware if you’re affected, or if someone you know is affected. It’s about knowing what precautions to take in those circumstances.”
While the condition of fall sports remains different from normal years, it’s important to remain hopeful about the future.
“I don’t think [COVID-19] is ever going to end. But, I believe that it will die down at some point,” added Sasha. “Although the virus may still be around, we can get back to a normal world.”