What will winter sports look like in the age of COVID-19?
With football season coming to an end, basketball season around the corner, and other winter sports anticipating the start of the season, how will COVID-19 affect their start?
Football took a late start in Georgia after the GHSA decided to postpone the start of the season for two weeks. Football season has been a whirlwind in itself, with fewer games than normal, cancellations due to raised amounts of positive COVID-19 cases, and school shutdowns that have affected teams all across the state.
The biggest challenge with winter sports is that they are played inside. Being indoors in close contact to other people is one of the biggest risks with the virus, so playing winter sports safely will be a challenge. Even if athletes are tested prior to games, will high schools be allowed to have fans at games? How will this affect recruiting for prospects and recruiters? This pandemic has created an unfortunate situation for high school athletes this year.
So far the GHSA has issued specific guidelines per sport for their winter seasons, but has not made an official announcement about these specific sports. This is the most recent statement made by Dr. Robin Hines, GHSA Executive Director, regarding proper quarantine guidelines for athletes:
“As we are navigating through this most unusual year, I want to address a couple of COVID-19 issues that have come up in a few occasions.
1. Be open regarding your quarantine situation, if there is one, with your opponent prior to the contest. Share your plan with your opponent if requested, and it is expected that all plans comply with the DPH. The Department of Public Health should at a minimum be aware of your plan to ensure compliance. If the GHSA is asked to intervene in a COVID-19 situation, the basis of the decision will be based on whether or not the DPH was involved in the plan or determines that it is within the guidance offered.
2. If you have an athlete test positive for COVID-19 after a contest and the possibility exists that the athlete was positive during the contest, please inform the school you played.”
These quarantine guidelines are essential to winter sports because there is a higher risk of being affected by the virus due to sports being played indoors. As mentioned before, each sport has been issued new guidelines and modifications for their approaching seasons.
Basketball has limited the pregame meeting protocols and has requested social distancing guidelines all throughout the gyms. Team benches should be limited and placed away from spectator seating if possible. Everything should be sanitized for players and officials, and pre- and post-game ceremonies are suspended until further notice.
Dance has received similar guidelines, as other winter sports like wrestling and swimming and diving are still awaiting theirs. COVID-19 has created a year of surprises, so it is unexpected what this winter season will hold.
Written by: Kyra Vandiver