Should athletes wear masks while playing?

Ever since the start of this pandemic there has been one question on athletes and fans minds: what about school sports? As selfish as that might sound, it was a genuine question. I remember being at the last baseball game of the year before everything shut down, and everyone was buzzing about the coronavirus and how it was going to grant us extra spring break. Fast forward a year and many online classes later, it’s crazy to think how naïve we were. We had no idea what was about to come.

The school year is almost over, and every athlete had to go through their seasons with masks and COVID-19 restrictions. I know this has affected different athletes of different sports both mentally and physically, because I know it isn’t easy for my sport. The shortened season was definitely rough. There were a lot of athletes who didn’t get a chance to play as much as they wanted to because there wasn’t enough time for coaches to truly see how their team could play. The masks seem to get in the way when it comes to breathing, trying to talk to teammates, and sometimes even seeing what you’re doing. From my personal experience, the masks feel like they are hurting more than helping.

Senior Lucas Kinsey has had to juggle masks, a shortened season, and the injury bug in his final year of football. At West alone injuries across sports have increased, especially this football season. It’s impossible and improbable that these are because of masks, but isn’t it weird the most injury prone season in a while comes now? We are obviously just trying to stay safe, but should we wear them while playing? 

“Going into the season we had a lot of people and high hopes despite all the circumstances,” Kinsey said. “So far it hasn’t been going the direction we’ve wanted it to go. Masks have sucked for sure and a lot of people have quit because of the masks slowing us down and being generally annoying. I’m just grateful we are having a season.”

During this year’s basketball season, players were required to have a mask on for the entire game. With basketball being one of the more fast paced sports, the mask had a true effect on the players. For some players it felt like they cared more about the masks then the athletes. 

“It was very hard to breathe,” sophomore Lukas Kachilo said. “I would be over there struggling to breathe and then get a technical for my mask not being over my nose. It felt a little extreme and definitely affected my game mentally.” 

As much as the masks get in the way and slow us down, athletes definitely understand why they want us wearing them. I recently had to sit out my first two weeks of football because a friend of mine tested positive for COVID-19. Was I mad at him? Yes. Was I mad at the school? Yes. But I realize now they just want my teammates and I to be safe. As much as I still feel the rule is a bit over the top, I trust the state is doing the right thing.

I understand football with masks and a little bit of basketball. With contact sports, everyone is super close together. But what’s hard to understand is softball and baseball. If you are pitching you are on a mound by yourself. If you are batting the only person close is the catcher. Everyone is so spread and outside yet they have to wear masks? The safety aspect makes sense and they should definitely wear them In the dugout, but on the field is a little much.

“We are outside and definitely distanced enough. What’s the point of having to wear the masks?” junior Megan Reese said. “It is necessary for some sports but I think for ours we should just put them on in the dugout when we are close.”

With some sports, the mask rule seems to be a little inconsistent. The other day I was down at the track for football practice and I saw the track team running with no masks. I thought to myself okay that makes sense. It is a running sport. Then I realized teams like soccer and basketball have to wear masks, and that’s non-stop running for even longer. If we are going to wear masks, we should at least make the rule consistent. With contact sports, the mask rule is valid, but with baseball, softball, and other sports like those, I’m not sure If I agree.

“It doesn’t really feel necessary for certain sports,” junior Alyssa Price said. “We are outside, the virus is calming down, and teams that are even closer than we are playing soccer are not wearing masks. We are running just as much as other sports not wearing masks. If you want to wear one I think It should be optional, but not forced.”

So at the end of the day, I’ve come to find most athletes agree with me on the masks in sports situations. If there Is going to be a rule, it should at least be consistent. If masks are gonna give me the opportunity to play my sports and support other sports I’m all in. As annoying or unnecessary as you might think they are, we need to keep our masks on until further notice and hope things get back to normal sometime soon. 

By: Cooper Hughes, Staff Writer


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