High School Sports During Covid: Finding a New Way to Play

Gus Schmidt, Reporter

UPDATE: As of December 21, the first day of Girls and Boys Varsity Winter Track is January 4. This is the only sport that has been approved for competition offered at Hampton Bays. Other sports that have been approved, but are not offered at Hampton Bays are fencing and bowling. 

At the beginning of this year, it seemed like no one would be playing sports anytime soon due to the current Covid crisis. Fall sports were canceled and Section XI announced that the fall season would start in January, followed by shortened winter and spring seasons. The athletic department, run by athletic director Mr. Walker, came up with a schedule to try to get teams together before the January season begins. 

Training programs are running after school as long as the weather allows for it. The schedule for this training is very specific: on Mondays spring sports are in training, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for winter sports, and Thursdays and Fridays are for fall sports.  This training schedule started after school on Monday, Oct. 26, and coming from an athlete that took part in the training on that day complying with these rules is not very comfortable, but it is mandatory to keep our fun. You must wear a mask the entire time, you get some mask breaks but not a whole lot when you’re running and doing exercises; it gets pretty hard to breathe, but it’s to keep us safe and if we want to play our sports we have to cooperate with the rules. 

Track Coach O’Toole said, “This year will be interesting, that’s for sure.  As with everything in our lives, things look drastically different right now than they have in the past.  The most important thing is that we are following all safety guidelines and regulations and making sure that everyone feels comfortable being there. If that means wearing masks and being 12 feet apart, that is what we will do.”

O’Toole feels that these practices are a safe option. “I am 100% comfortable practicing with my team.  I know that our district has been taking all of the right precautions to keep students and staff members safe, and I’m so impressed with the way everyone has adjusted to our new, temporary ‘normal.’ I think that being able to get back to sports, even limited or part-time, is important for our student-athletes for both their physical and mental well-being.” He is fine with these new rules and regulations and will be willing to obey the rules if that means his team can compete this year. 

Coach Drohan, the cheerleading coach, has had to make some changes to the focus of her team’s practices. “My goal is to make the most out of the contact time I have with my athletes. I plan to focus on the 2-and-a-half-minute competition routine for our competition season instead of learning sideline cheers and band dances that are typically done during a football game,” said Drohan. She also explained her thoughts about the mask requirements and safety concerns,“I’m very comfortable practicing since the students have seemed responsible with masks and keeping their social distance.”

As the weeks go on and these training practices are taking place, the school is working on ways to gradually get back into contact and using the equipment while still obeying the rules and guidelines from the NYS Department of Health. Mr.Walker is trying his best to get us the most out of our practices and is continuing to push for a more “normal” athletic year. “We will go till November 20 and then reevaluate at that time and make the best decisions moving forward.  Weather and colder temperatures will become more of a factor for outside training. We have to follow the NYS Department of Health guidelines by wearing a mask, distancing, and working independently in most of the sports.”

 After the first couple of days, Walker thinks that everything is going pretty well. “We are only three days into the after school training sessions, but I think the response has been positive and students and coaches appreciative of the opportunity to be active and have contact with their friends and teams.” If the school and student-athletes can keep their distance and maintain safety precautions the sporting events will be played out when seasons start in January as long as Covid numbers stay steady and do not rise.