High schools should not be playing fall sports

Evan Laux, NEWS & OPINION EDITOR

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly flipped my life upside down as it has with everyone else in the U.S. over the past six months. Uncertainty is the new norm and it seems as though aspects of our everyday lives are changing pretty much day-to-day. There’s very frequently new developments that change COVID protocol and how we react to the pandemic at hand. 

States, cities, and counties to enact their own measures and laws to combat the virus depending on the severity they believe their area to be in. As coronavirus threat levels rise on county and state spread maps, policy gets increasingly more strict.

Growing COVID numbers have not deterred some organizations from making changes to their protocols and guidelines, however.

For example, early on in the pandemic cycle the fall school semester, at least in person, wasn’t considered a possibility at all. After being sent home in the spring, the majority opinion I witnessed from my peers and administrators was that schools would not be held on-campus in the fall. A couple months later, colleges and high schools across the country were holding face-to-face classes.

I think this is fine, as long as these organizations are maintaining proper protocol to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

A more debated aspect of schooling during COVID, is whether or not sports teams were able to hit the field. Early on, like with face-to-face classes, there was little guarantee that sports would be played in the fall. And until recently, when the Big 10 was announced to return, most colleges were not competing in fall sports. 

So then why are many high schools across the country still playing fall sports? In fact, professional leagues are the only sporting events that should be able to be conducted at this time in my opinion.

The reason why these institutions work is because the players devote their whole lives to the sport they compete in. The NBA is the best example of this. With the “bubble,” NBA players were placed inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. All practices and games were held inside the resort, and players leaving the “bubble” would be required to quarantine at least 14 days and take a coronavirus test to reenter.

These players dedicate their entire lives to their sport, so they are capable of altering their day-to-day lives to continue competing while still following COVID protocol. Highschoolers and college students aren’t able to do this as they have classes and other commitments outside of their athletics. That’s why college sports were, for the most part, postponed this season.

So it seems strange to me that high schools across the nation are still allowing students to participate in sports.

It angers me when I go on Snapchat and see stories posted by family members and friends in high school that show students and athletes blatantly disregarding COVID guidelines. I’ve seen locker rooms stuffed with 30+ athletes with no masks on whatsoever. 

These are students going home to their families every single day. If a college student gets coronavirus, they are most likely able to relocate to campus quarantine and isolation housing where they can safely deter themselves from contact with others.

Many high schoolers don’t have this privilege. If they do not have a severe case where hospitalization is required, they will be quarantined at home with risk of transmitting the virus to others.

Not to mention, high schoolers are still children. They may not understand the gravity of the pandemic as a whole, and how their actions can lead to severe consequences. It doesn’t help that in the rural area of central Ohio we live in, there are a vast majority of adults that are advocating anti-mask sentiments to their young and impressionable children.

But maybe the high schools I have specifically seen are just the minority, and the vast majority of high schools are following COVID regulation seriously with their athletics programs. 

College athletic programs like AU are still practicing during this off-season, hopefully while wearing masks. They are unable to compete against other schools because under COVID regulation, it would be impossible to have venues open to full stands of spectators and packed gymnasium and fields of players, staff and coaches. 

Without sizable audiences and fan support, athletic programs are unable to make any profit from their season. 

For whatever reason, however, I keep seeing pictures of packed high school football stadiums with swarms of family and friends without masks.

Maybe I’m just overthinking it, but it upsets me to see hard-working college athletes losing their athletic seasons. It’s understandable though as taking a season off is the responsible thing to do in the nation’s current climate. It upsets me even more to see packed high school stadiums where athletes and their families are knowingly making it harder for us to get through this pandemic. It seems irresponsible for high school administrations to allow this.