Fall Seasons return in Pandemic

Athletes, Coaches Adjust Programs to Continue Ram Activities

At the start of the 2020 school year the Indiana High School Athletic Association provided a detailed list of how schools should manage their sports programs in the unknown time of the coronavirus pandemic. A year later, the virus is still impacting schools but the IHSAA guidelines have changed, allowing schools to set their own guidelines.

“We just have to keep following the guidelines we are given and adapt, adjust and overcome as things change,” said Athletic Director Darek Newkirk.

Football

For football, guidelines lessened moderately, but some, however, remained the same. Athletes and coaches are still expected to maintain a distance of six feet from another person when in locker rooms if possible, face masks and gloves are permissible and hand-shaking during introductions and post-game have been suspended.

Washing hands should still be done thoroughly and frequently. Games have also been opened to an unlimited number of people this year, rather than an occupancy limit like last season.

At the start of the school year many students faced the challenge of quarantine, which in turn impacted players time at practice.

“If you miss eight to 14, days you must makeup four practices before you can play. If you miss more than 14 days, you will have to make-up six practices. This is different from last season, in that it is days missed and not days of practice missed,” said Varsity Football Coach Neil Dittmer.

Cheerleading

Girls cheerleaders for football games have had guidelines loosened for them as well. Last football season, the girls cheering had to wear masks when performing stunts, which is not a mandated requirement for this football season.

“So far we have dealt with quarantined athletes as best we can – moving girls around and adjusting to still allow our cheerleaders to cheer. I think forcing us to constantly adjust is exhausting, but ultimately it may make us better. We have to constantly problemsolve and that’s a skill that everyone can benefit from,” said Varsity Cheer Coach Heather Nichols.

Volleyball

For volleyball, there were only slight changes to guidelines from previous years. Due to how many athletes that were quarantined, or out completely for having Covid-19 last year, the IHSAA adjusted their rules and regulations of practices. The athletes now have to have four practices in. Pre-game warm-ups no longer count as practices. There was also a recommendation list that provided ideas that would best benefit the team, yet these were not official changes.

Teams do not switch benches in between sets, bench personnel are limited to observe from a three to six foot distance, a player is to remain three to six feet apart from the referee when substituting in, sanitize equipment during and after the warm-up period and eliminate the shaking of hands between teams.

“This has affected our team because it makes it difficult for us to get four practices in when we are playing three nights a week,” said Varsity Volleyball Coach Alexis Speer.

Golf

Girl’s golf also remains the same for their 2021 season, with no restrictive Covid protocols.

“I think this whole ordeal will make everyone aware of staying healthy and safe,” said Varsity Girls Golf Coach Brad Bledsoe.

Cross Country

Cross Country guidelines are also very similar to last year. Athletes still have to maintain a distance of six feet from another athlete, no hand shakes, fist bumps or hugging for encouragement is allowed and sanitization of frequently touched surfaces is mandatory.

“These athletes, or runners, are missing races because of being quarantined. They won’t get to compete and those are races they won’t ever get back or be able to do again,” said Varsity Cross Country Coach Summer Hudelson.

Covid has taken its toll on athletes, students, coaches, parents and Paoli’s school system as a whole in the past couple of years. This year, however, is the year students are looking forward to being back to a bit of normalcy within their sports.

Story by Makiya Russelburg

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