Sports at CHHS adapt amidst pandemic

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Photo by Janelle Gillis

Marissa Foy (10) dives into the pool after removing her facemask.

The changing of the world in the age of COVID-19 has left us uncertain, but the comfort that sports provide to so many has not waned. Many high school students rely on sports as an afterschool activity to keep them active and to work on things that school classwork cannot. When the world took a turn for the worst, it changed the look of school, the normalcy of keeping a schedule and made everyone unsure of what sports would look like this fall. How did these programs adapt to a different atmosphere? What will these sports continue to look like?

The Columbia Heights High School sports season is regulated by MSHSL (Minnesota State High School League), which includes the creation of rules to keep everyone safe whilst playing in the current pandemic. Precautions the MSHSL puts out apply to all public schools in Minnesota;. Each sport has unique rules that depend on the individual sport, with rules changing between indoor and outdoor seasons.

Outdoor sports, such as soccer and tennis, had to abide by the following guidelines: spectators at games can only be the hosting team’s family, benches and close quarters meetings at practice must be socially distant, and masks must be worn. Whilst competing and running, masks are not required but can be worn if an athlete prefers. Indoor sports were allowed no spectators but later changed on October 8 to allow two guests per player with spots having to be reserved beforehand, and admission must be staggered to reduce the bystander overlap.

However, surrounding states had their own rules. Unlike Minnesota, Wisconsin had football and volleyball start only a week after other fall sports, while MN had originally canceled and moved those sports to a spring season. In addition, MN canceled all games that involved teams outside a school’s conference as well as tournaments. Wisconsin discouraged but did not ban tournaments, including out-of-state ones. 

Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) have been closely following all precautions released by MSHSL, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), along with adding their own. Adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing has been a critical part of having a safe season. CHPS has allowed spectators only if they follow these rules, and staff also kept a close eye on both participants and spectators. 

“Something that sounds so simple like, water distribution, can actually be very challenging,” CHPS activities manager Jake Henderson said. “The football district is problem-solving that right now.”

Sports are always beneficial, but during these circumstances, they have arguably become more important than ever before. Currently, many are stuck at home, consequently lowering the amount of average activity and movement. Losing even simple routines like walking between classes has had a big impact on students’ bodies. Breaks from sitting are beneficial as they help relieve muscle strain, ease mental tension, and can improve blood circulation. Sports not only provide a schedule and long periods of protected time where students can be active but also allows for time to talk and interact with others. This benefits students both physically and mentally.

“Team community, friendships, and exercise are always the best thing about sports, but this year, in particular, I am recognizing what an important role they play,” girls’ varsity soccer coach Kristen Sinicariello said.

Girls’ soccer ended their season 1-9-1, with a first-round sections victory against Brooklyn Center 2-0. Boys’ Soccer ended their season with a record of 5-6-1, also with a first-round sections victory over Brooklyn Center 4-0. Girls’ tennis ended with a match record of 30-54. Girls’ swim and dive went 0-7 in meets.

This year has been full of many ups and downs, and it seems the only thing everyone has found constant is change. Change is not always a bad thing. Change is impactful and even when it’s negative in nature, it often provides a silver lining. The way sports have adapted during this pandemic is a great example of how change can benefit us when everybody works together to keep traditions going and keep everyone safe and healthy, even during turbulent times.