On June 11, Henderson County Public Schools released Phase 1 of their plan for high school students to return to athletics on June 22. Athletes are required to follow a list of guidelines specific to their particular sport, including wearing masks, getting screened for COVID-19 symptoms and staying at least six feet apart. The full list of rules and guidelines can be found here.
This upcoming fall sports season is unlike one any West Henderson athlete or coach has seen before, and students and staff alike are unsure how they will be able to successfully begin workouts.
“All soccer can really do right now is run and dribble. No heading, no sharing of soccer balls, bringing their own water bottles, faces covered when not running or doing aerobic exercise, No contact,” men’s soccer coach Brian Brewer said. “I have no idea how we are going to go about anything normal until we can play or train without restrictions.”
Some students have reacted positively to the guidelines, saying that they are unavoidable and accepting them in stride.
“I play cross country and the rules will affect the start of our meets and how we will run. Our sport isn’t affected much because it’s just running,” junior Alyssa Price said. “I am fine with the new guidelines because I want to be safe and smart. Football has it really bad compared to us.”
Other students, however, believe that the rules are slightly unnecessary and that the county’s guidelines could be less restrictive.
“I play football and we can’t play with the ball, we can’t have contact and we have to stay six feet apart, so we can’t run plays. So all we can really do is conditioning,” senior Will Parker said. “I’m glad that we get to do something, but I don’t like all the restrictions. I feel like we could do a little more. I can go to the park and throw a football, but I can’t throw a football at school.”
The restrictions bring more than just inconvenience. Students are worried that they will not be able to enjoy their season without close contact with their teammates, but Principal Luke Manuel hopes that students can feel both safe and happy during their summer workouts.
“I hope it will [be enjoyable], but one of the goals was to even have sports for the upcoming school year,” Manuel said. “The phasing system is trying to make people feel comfortable and make sure that it’s safe for players and coaches. It’s not perfect, but I think that’s all the process for it so it can be safe later on.”
Many people, however, find it difficult to see how they will be able to enjoy and succeed in the sport they love with all of the restrictions.
“The guidelines are going to be tough to follow, but they are in place for our safety and for the safety of the kids,” Brewer said. “It will be possible to be successful, but I do not think it will be fun because we will all be so focused on following the guidelines and staying healthy.”
Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in recent months, many people find themselves anxious when being outside of their houses and around other people. The county’s plan, while following state guidelines, is meant to make students feel as safe as possible during this pandemic.
“They make me feel safer because I feel less at risk of getting the virus,” Price said. “When running as a team we are all still pretty close to each other and secreting sweat with a lot of bacteria. I honestly wonder if we will even still have fall sports.”
School sports are an important part of the culture at West Henderson. And while it won’t be easy, both students and staff hope that they can make the best of it and have a successful fall season.
“I know that sports help build school community,” Manuel said. “And a lot of people in the Falcon district here take a lot of pride in their sports, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, whatever it is. We’re really hoping that we can have a good fall season, and even though things will not be the same, I think it’ll be worth it.”
By: Emily Chambliss, Editor-in-Chief