school sports in the era of covid-19

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photo credit: grace rossman

senior louis randazzo was one of the few students at the game. he said the regulations made the game feel very different from previous ones. “they were very boring with no student section and it just didn’t feel as hype with not a lot of people there,” randazzo said.

by colin duffy and annabelle julien

athletic director michelle davis and her staff have been working to implement recent changes in mhsaa guidelines. the mhsaa recently released their covid-19 response plan after working since march to create a policy that allows fall sports to continue during the 2020 school year with spectators. the plan continues to change as guidance from the cdc and state of michigan evolves.

“the everchanging state and mhsaa mandates are challenging,” davis said. “requirements change frequently, so making sure our teams, spectators and community are aware of the changes in a timely manner is imperative.”

originally, the plan for fall sporting events was to allow two guests per player and coach. this plan changed on oct. 9 when the mhsaa amended that policy. the change now allows for a maximum 30 percent capacity at games, with a cap of 1,000 fans. however, the mhsaa is allowing schools to continue enforcing a stricter policy, including sticking to the prior two guest per person limit.

the grosse pointe public schools system’s policy is in between the original and amended plan. it states that every outdoor fall activity is allowed four spectators per player. however, there are several exceptions to this policy. students playing football, band, dance and cheerleading are allowed two spectators; volleyball players are allowed three spectators; and golf and cross country are limited at 30 percent capacity.

according to davis, the mask mandate has been the most difficult part of the plan to implement and enforce.
“it has been a challenge to enforce the mask policy for both athletes and spectators,” davis said. “it is a state mandate but many people take their frustrations out on the athletic department.”

from varsity field hockey head coach emma yee’s perspective, adapting to the new way of fall sports is unusual. coach yee has led her team into the playoffs with a winning record amid an unpredictable season. although it has been difficult with no locker rooms, a mask mandate and limited spectators, the team has succeeded.

“we don’t have those moments this year to motivate the girls when they’re facing a challenging opponent,” yee said. “but i know my team is able to rise above the circumstances and still put forth their best efforts.”

the new rules and regulations have forced students to change how they play, but the only challenges posed by the mhsaa guidelines are communicating with teammates while wearing a mask and playing without spectators, according to varsity soccer player finn marshall.

marshall believes that north players have been following the regulations, but he says it is hard to control if opposing teams follow the rules or not.

ultimately, the hope for davis and the rest of the athletic department is to keep all parties involved happy and healthy, something that includes mandating the use of a mask.

“our goal is to keep all athletics and coaches safe,” davis said.