According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people should not wear masks while exercising, noting that “Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The important preventative measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance of at least one meter from others.”
(PHOTO: Jacqueline Dormer/Republican-Herald via AP.)
With that being said, the WHO is likely implying that no contact sports take place. However, it is obvious that these sports are going to continue to happen. While fall sports in the PIAA did not require student-athletes to wear masks while playing, Governor Tom Wolf and his administration has made it so all involved in the event from officials and fans to score keepers and players, all should be masked at all times.
While the thought of masking these young people up to prevent the spread during competition is a good one, it is not a good health practice to make them wear a mask while competing. Honestly, it is not a good practice to allow them to compete at all from what the WHO says. However, high school sports were resumed beginning on January 4th at 8:00AM and games, meets, tournaments, and practices are begging to ramp up.
Is it a good idea? That is up to who one speaks with. Truthfully, it is hard to imagine anyone can be disappointed for a student-athlete who will now be able to make memories with friends, peers, teammates, and coaches. It is easy to be happy for these young people who choose to play and resume their athletic careers. It is easy to be happy for the coaches who now can continue to make that positive difference on the next generation of leaders. While it is a calculated risk to play, it is one these young people, coaches, educators, and community are willing to make to give these student-athletes the opportunity to compete; an opportunity they deserve.
Various athletes from around District 9 offered their perspective and thoughts on resuming action. Sarri Swanson, a senior basketball player from Kane, said this about having a senior basketball season: “I am thankful to be back in the gym and to be picking up where we left off in December. Wearing a mask while playing is not as bad as I thought it would be. If that is what we have to do to play, I am sure that about every high school will do it to be able to play.”
Jackson Glover, a senior from Austin, is really looking forward to representing his school in one of the few sports his school district offers at the varsity level.
“Coming from a small school, my teammates and I are very close,” said Glover. “Being able to represent my school with my friends means more to me than a game. These memories in basketball are what I will remember my entire life.”
Jace Miner, a senior from Brookville, provided his thoughts on mask wearing during games: “I think that if we are on the bench, masks are a good idea. Playing basketball in a mask is not healthy, though. Overall, I am super thankful and excited for the opportunity to play.”
Sammy Hayes is a senior from the Saint Marys Lady Dutch, and she offered her perspective on stopping the spread potentially during games. I want nothing more to have a senior season and understand the importance of stopping the spread. If masks during practice and games is what it takes, I will do it without complaint.”
Her high school peer, Mya Klaiber, is a swimmer and this mask mandate affects swimmers uniquely. Swimmers must put the mask back on after they are done in the pool immediately.
“It is difficult to have a perfect plan moving forward, but everyone is doing their best to help us have a season; even if it is a shortened one,” said Klaiber.
Luke Jansen from Elk County Catholic is really excited for the chance to represent the ECC Crusaders, even with crowds that will look a little different in normally packed gyms that they play in. “Nobody wants an empty gym or masks, but it is what we must do to play. We are really excited to be back in the gym and we met virtually for a few weeks to stay ready.”
Keyona Gardner is a senior in gymnastics and Dom Allegretto is a junior in basketball for Ridgway. Each of them are not back to practice yet as Ridgway has decided to continue virtual education and to not allow sports to go on while the learning experience is virtual. Each of them offered great perspective on the chance to hopefully resume their Elker careers soon.
Gardner said “I think the mask rules and protocols are overwhelming. Our gymnastics team only has 7-8 girls, and we have to wear a mask and distance constantly. Even with this, I am so grateful to have a season. I just know it will be hard to keep a mask up while performing in this sport. Overall, I want it to be known how proud I am of our team for all doing our best.
Allegretto is excited to get back on the floor with his father, Tony, as his coach. “I really hope we do in fact get this season because I know we all worked really hard this offseason. I think we all deserve to play and I am really excited to hopefully get the chance to play. My dad has the same excitement as well.”
Finally, Aidan Gardner from Redbank Valley added some thoughts on a senior wrestling season.
“This is going to be a special year that I feel like everyone will remember. Wrestlers and wrestling families have two choices coming into this season. They can feel bad about the changes across wrestling this year, or they can cherish every moment they get. Wrestling teaches people how to overcome adversity and how to adapt. Pouting or giving up is not an option for me, personally. This season may give some wrestlers a chance they never would have had before to reach new milestones and the top of a podium. All that choose to participate will likely choose to train harder than ever to reach their goals.”
Overall, it is great to see these student-athletes get back to some normalcy and do something they love. It has been very difficult to be a high schooler lately; as if high school was not hard enough. Sports have some great benefits, and these student athletes, coaches, officials, and others could use as much support as they can get right now. Here is to a safe year of winter sports in the PIAA and in District 9.