‘Play Ball!’ Or Not? How Fall Sports Are Changing Due to COVID-19

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Mary Ferrito, Staff Writer

After months of deep deliberation, Ohio’s Governor, Mike Dewine announced his decision to allow fall sports to be played: “We want the athletes to compete,” Dewine says, “We want the young people to have their season, but we want to do it as safely as possible.” 

On March 1st, 2020, the coronavirus was proclaimed a national emergency; since then it has altered almost every aspect of our lives. After lengthy discussion and consideration, OHSAA indefinitely postponed winter tournaments and spring sports at the high school level. Athletes everywhere were heartbroken. Seniors’ final seasons were ripped away, long anticipated trips to state vanished, and many post-season honors, like banquets and MVP games, were cancelled. Many returning student athletes wondered what the following fall season may look like. 

Following his conference regarding fall sports on Tuesday, August 18th, Dewine said, “It’s not going to be your typical Friday night football in Ohio,” he jokes, “but the young people are going to get to play.” Packed crowds and student sections were declared unsafe, creating a less traditional and energetic atmosphere at games. The new safety measures have been recently applied to Alder Football, and have changed the feelings of victory for some players. 

“You don’t really notice it in the middle of the game,” says Junior Jon Keith, a member of the Alder Football team, “But after a touchdown or turnover when you look into the stands it’s weird when you don’t see the students that always come and support.”

Keith is hopeful that the virus has done its damage on his team’s season, but Junior Reggan Gray, a member of the JA Cross Country and Track team, is concerned about covid’s future effects on her season,

“We have to wear masks on the bus and ride with the windows down,” she says. “It’s fine now, but once it gets cold or starts raining it’s going

to be an issue.” 

Gray still mourns the loss of her previous track season, “I was really disappointed when track got cancelled, especially for the seniors. A lot of them were like brothers to me, and as a whole program, we were going to be good.” 

The class of ‘20 was robbed of their final spring season as high school athletes, and the class below watched in fear that they would share the same fate. Senior Matt Schertzer, a center mid player for the JA Boy’s Soccer team, says the pre-season time was full of uncertainty. “When my senior year was up in the air I was just thankful for every practice I did get to have..” he says. “Every practice, every team event, every chance I got to see my teammates and play soccer, I held onto knowing it could be over at any time.” Schertzer also commended his coach for contributing to the positivity of him and his team during the trivial time.

“He kept us on track with our training and conditioning,” Schertzer says, “And remained confident that we would get our season.” 

Freshman Alyssa Miller, of Alder’s Volleyball team, describes how the preventative measures are creating a different game scene than normal.

“We have to spread out when we warm up,” Miller says, “And we have to wear masks when we are watching other teams, or even just on the bench.” Masks mandates, social distancing recommendations, and thinner crowds are all key parts to avoid another surge in covid cases and ultimately, another quarantine.

The bleachers may be bare, and the fans are few, but simply being able to play is what is most important to student athletes. Junior Ellie Heisler of the Alder Volleyball team is just grateful to be back on the court, regardless of the circumstances.

“Quarantine reignited my drive for sports and made me realize you always have to play like it is your last game on the court,” she says, “I am glad to be back on the court and ready to make the most of the season!”

Last year’s Alder Football team charging through a banner saying, “Alder is Out of This World.” This Friday’s theme is also Space Jam, but this time there will be lots and lots of space between students and fans.