March 15, 2021
After a very long wait with the cancelation of two sports seasons since the COVID-19 pandemic began, high school fall sports are finally starting again. As COVID-19 continues to intensify across the country and with the recent decision of sports beginning again with games starting March 4th , many question if now is the time to restart the sports season.
Since the pandemic began, everyone has had to put a pause on their everyday life and adjust to this new way of living. Youth athletes especially have had a difficult time adjusting to this new normal. Going from practicing multiple times a week, and for some athletes even multiple times a day, to not playing sports for months. This sudden pause has negatively affected many students both physically and mentally, leaving many to feel bored, out of shape, and some even feeling socially disconnected. Many teens see playing sports as an outlet. It releases the stress of home and school life, and allows them to express themselves whether that’s on the field, court, or studio.
Although there are health risks with sports starting again that could risk people catching COVID-19 and increasing the spread, there are also risks to mental health if sports are not to start in the near future and can be especially damaging to growing minds. Now, school and government officials must consider “at what point do the pros of playing now outweigh the cons?”
“The pros of sports starting again definitely outweigh the cons,” Said by 11th grade varsity football player Robel Bruk. “During this time, COVID-19 has ravaged through multiple states, causing multiple restrictions and more. COVID-19 has done enough to senior athletes around the United States, and they deserve this chance to go out and play for their future. Restrictions have been put into place for sports, and they’re being followed accordingly to keep us all safe and healthy.”
There are many substantial benefits that come with playing sports in high school, and participating in school extracurriculars in general. These benefits include more self-confidence, bettering oneself at building relationships, and learning the importance of time management. All of these skills are useful for life after high school. Sports provide people with structure and a sense of organization, and without this they are essentially left to fend for themselves to discover something that will fill the gap.
Those who play club and recreational sports have been able to return to a somewhat normal schedule, with many sports having seasons starting late summer of 2020, but what about those who play high school sports? With the news of school closing and the 2020 spring season being cancelled, athletes who only play in high school have not played since last year. But now that it is official sports in Howard County are starting, many athletes finally have something to look forward to. “I’m excited for High School sports to start again,” exclaimed 11th grade girls varsity soccer player Sumara Bedward. “Everyone can see their teammates again, and a lot of people get to have a senior season before they leave highschool. Also, it gives people who don’t play club a chance to be more active.”
However, a concern many athletes and coaches have is how team dynamics may change because of COVID,if that comforting team feeling will still be there with many not interacting with each other for months, some for even almost a full year. “A lot of people have friends who play club who can’t play high school. In general the overall quality is going to decrease, just because there is less talent and people aren’t really in shape,” explained Bedward.
Bruk had this to say about team dynamics changing: “Team dynamics definitely could change with COVID procedures. Due to the fact that we have to stay socially distanced, wear masks, and in addition are put in pods, that togetherness we would normally have would not be there, and Team dynamics might not be the same since we haven’t seen each other for a while either. Football is all about bonding and teamwork, and while we weren’t together for all of quarantine, we’ll definitely work on that when we come together again as a team.”
For many, this is their first large group activity since the pandemic first began, and for even more their first time interacting with school peers outside of their friend group in-person since they left. As for freshmen, their first in-person high school experience will be joining a sports team with many people they are not familiar with. Teamwork and chemistry are essential parts of sports, but the question of will this change due to not seeing each other for so long is something we will discover as sports contine.
Teams in Howard County have been practicing for a couple of weeks and so far things have gone smoothly, and according to players it is not so much different than practices pre-COVID. “Practice is generally the same except we wear masks and there are a few small rule changes because of corona like we are not allowed to interact with JV and they split the field. Also our season is shortened.”Explained junior varsity soccer player Alexis Park.
As the season ramps up and students return back to the building, there is a sense of relief that things are beginning to somewhat feel normal again. Hopefully this feeling continues as we continue into 2021.