BY KAYLA GATES
The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on the world of high school sports for many months. However, the long-awaited reopening of athletic programs may still be premature. New coronavirus concerns have begun suspending some reestablished seasons, rendering their initiation irrational.
Following the March 13 declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency and the ultimate closure of schools, high school sports were unable to finish off their spring seasons. However, as the severity of the pandemic began to diminish, schools were eager to resume team sports.
As the state of Florida mandated the reopening of school campuses, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) outlined a plan to incorporate their athletic programs. Their decision to kick off the fall season required hastened action in order to prevent any further delays.
However, as the severity of the pandemic began to diminish, schools were eager to resume team sports.
The Broward County Athletic Association (BCAA) started gradually with the allowance of brief team meetings and initial conditioning. However, now on to phase three of their plan, the BCAA has officially permitted team practices in anticipation of the competition schedules in the works.
In an attempt to align with proper health and safety guidelines, the county has limited practices to no more than two hours a day. Student-athletes are required to have their temperature checked prior to being on campus, and must wear facial coverings when not engaging in workouts.
While such guidelines appear to be implemented with reasonable intent, it remains unclear whether or not such measures will be effective in combating the concerns of the coronavirus.
On October 14, BCPS Superintendent Robert Runice attended CCHS as afternoon practices took place. Having officially entered into phase three, Runcie had the opportunity to observe the various fall athletic programs in action.
“Many of our students live for these activities and we wanted to make sure we were able to do this in a way that is safe,” Runcie said.
However, the confidence of Runice’s words contradicted the current situation. While BCPS had promised a safe reopening through the initiation of the fall sports seasons, new developments in the health of its athletes highlighted the irony of such a statement.
In fact, practices had just been suspended at two Broward County high schools due to student coronavirus cases. The junior varsity football program at Western High School as well as the cheerleading program at Cypress Bay High School have both suspended their seasons.
“Those are the two programs we’ve suspended,” Runcie said. “We’ll evaluate those this week, go through the necessary protocols and we’ll make a determination and consult in consultation with our medical experts and everyone to figure out when we can restart those programs up again.”
While coronavirus outbreaks remain isolated to these two programs alone, the uncertainty of the situation provides the possibility for future concerns. Throughout the district, the Florida Department of Health has already confirmed eight positive cases since in-person learning began.
“Many of our students live for these activities and we wanted to make sure we were able to do this in a way that is safe.”BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie
While the reopening of school campuses has always held the possibility of coronavirus concerns, new developments within athletic programs run the risk of greater exposure to the community, as many athletes who participate in after school sports are not currently attending class on campus.
Regardless of the risks, participation in athletic programs remains dependent on the student’s perceptions. Those who feel as though the circumstances are still unsuitable for ensuring their safety are able to pursue other means of engagement.
“Due to the members of my household that are especially vulnerable to covid, it’s just not worth the risk,” junior Dylan Bober said. “I can run [cross country] at home and log my runs.”
Still, personal practice can not be equated to the experiences of team conditioning and competition. Further, it remains unclear whether or not all student-athletes are on the same page when it comes to the seriousness of the situation.
Overall, it seems as though there are still many unaddressed issues when it comes to the start of the sports season. New coronavirus cases only highlight the importance of proceeding with caution in order to ensure the health and safety of BCPS high school athletic programs.
Photo courtesy of Sun Sentinel