Professional sports are back during COVID-19; are high school sports on their way?

Brooke Leslie

Courtesy of Getty Images and The Ringer Magazine
Two players from the Kansas Chiefs close together expose how easy it is to contract the virus while on the field.

Redwood has always been known for its competitive sports, so the empty fields and gyms feel abnormal. However, with the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) back in action after being shut down because of COVID-19, Redwood is hopeful for sports to start again after the six-month absence.

Although most professional teams are playing again, current sports’ COVID-19 cases are increasing, which is a concern for the Redwood athletic department. In September, a Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) article reported that 43 MLB games were postponed due to players testing positive. Five MLB teams have had positive test results, and the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have dealt with large-scale outbreaks within their teams. 

Just three weeks into their 2020 season, the NFL has already faced COVID-19 complications. Due to COVID-19 cases, the Steelers versus Titans game was eliminated from the season entirely and the Patriots versus Chiefs game was postponed, according to Sporting News Magazine.

Masks are now a mandated requirement of the staff on the sidelines during NFL games. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

Examining the strategy these professional teams use to manage COVID-19 could potentially benefit Redwood in determining productive versus counterproductive regulations. Damon Gerstein, a senior on the Redwood varsity football team, has been following the NFL, college football and other high school football teams, and he has an optimistic outlook on the upcoming season. 

“The season got postponed to see how college football and the NFL is going to work. Some other states are back to playing high school football and it seems to be going really well. There hasn’t been an outbreak in the community in those places, so [the football team and staff] just wanted to see how that goes first,” Gerstein said. 

While the major league teams can be a good reference, Jessica Peisch, the Redwood athletic director, explains that there is a distinct difference between Redwood and professional sports: professional sports are for-profit and Redwood sports are not. The lack of funding is an obstacle high school sports are facing because it is harder to get the resources high schools need in order to play sports safety. 

“It is just very hard to compare, for instance, the NFL to the Redwood football team, because every time a player steps onto a facility in the NFL, everybody gets tested,” Peisch said.

In order to reopen sports, Redwood athletics has had to improvise on ways they can keep the community safe without the use of resources major league sports have. Peisch explains that Redwood is following the pod system, which is enforced by the county guidelines. A small group of athletes gets their temperature taken as they arrive on campus, and they wear their masks to the field. There is no equipment used, minimizing contamination, and everything is done at least six feet apart. 

Redwood football team last year before COVID-19 delayed their 2020 season. (Photo courtesy of Jordan Warren)

As of Oct. 23, all fall sports are scheduled to start Dec. 7, which is exhilarating for fall athletes like Chloe Swildens, a senior on the field hockey team, who has been practicing independently all summer. 

“The field hockey team has been practicing twice a week with a personal trainer just so we can improve our speed and strength for when we go back,” Swildens said. 

The abrupt cancelation of sports was something that all athletes had to adapt to. Not having a sports schedule to keep her in the rhythm during the school year has made it more difficult for Swildens to stay committed during the offseason.  

“The hardest thing for me during the offseason was my scheduling. I was so used to going to school, going to practice, going home, eating dinner and then starting my homework. It is obviously different not having that structure every day and that was an adjustment I had to make to keep myself motivated,” Swildens said.  

As the world attempts to reopen during this global pandemic, professional sports provide a blueprint to how Redwood athletes could possibly compete again. Fortunately, with the proposed starting date, Redwood sports appear to be tackling COVID-19 and stepping in the right direction.