Masked student athletes

As many states and communities return to sports and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes have been trying to adapt to this new ‘normal’ on their own. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing during heavy conditioning sessions have become a mandatory guideline for student athletes.

The CDC recommends athletes to wear masks and practice social distancing for sports and activities. Within the Barrington High School parameters, student athletes are required to wear masks when attending practice sessions. Students are also expected to keep their masks on for the duration of practice to ensure the safety of themselves and other students.

As COVID-19 restrictions allowed an increase in participation in group gatherings, one being allowing athletes to come in person to practice, many students faced the transition from Zoom conditioning to in person conditioning.

“I think we get so much more done in person with masks than over Zoom. It is extremely hard to clean dances and teach choreography over Zoom so being in person is very important to us and we are all so grateful,” sophomore Isabella Sepe, Barrington varsity dance team, said.

As athletics move indoors with winter sports, properly wearing masks will become even more important in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Wearing masks does affect my entire team because communication is lost very frequently and fitness is harder. As a soccer team, training has been indoors meaning the team cohesively struggles but we know it will be worth it in the end!” sophomore Lucy Stanton, a soccer player on the FC1974 team, said.
As student athletes adapt to these new regulations, coaches must change their practice itineraries to fit within the guidelines as well.

“Our entire sport has changed. In order to classify us as a low-risk sport and allow for us to have a competitive season, the IHSA chose to eliminate stunting for the 2020-2021 school year. This changes our focus to other skills, like tumbling and jumping,” Barrington’s head cheer coach, Coach Meehan Chor, said.

While many sports were able to provide Zoom practice sessions, some sports, such as swim, weren’t able to provide practice sessions in water for their athletes. Coach Valentine, Barrington’s boys varsity swim coach, elaborates.

“Swimming and diving practices require a pool so Zoom practices are not feasible,” Coach Valentine said. “In swimming, the athletes don’t have to wear their masks while competing, so performance issues are normally related to other matters (i.e. practice attendance)”.

Even with the challenge masks may bring to the adaptivity of sports, many coaches and athletes find that masks have not gotten in the way of their improvement. Many coaches have adjusted their expectations for athletes to be suitable within school requirements.

“Masks don’t hold us back from accomplishing anything during practice,” Coach Meehan Chor said.

Barrington’s goal as a community is to keep staff and students safe and healthy. Student athletes have preserved through their ‘new normal’ and have found ways to attend practice in-person while coaches have worked hard to adapt to the given regulations and provide a safe but effective practice itinerary for students.

“Breaking records is less important than allowing all athletes the chance to feel normal again at practices and competitions,” Coach Valentine said.