Winter sports begin with strict safety guidelines


Kathleen Reish

Coach Matt Gallagher speaks to the Stroudsburg boys basketball team during a timeout in a 2020 contest.

After weeks of delays to the start of the winter sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mountaineer athletes were finally able to begin athletic activities on Monday, January 4.

Initially, tryouts for multiple sports were scheduled for Friday, November 20. Then, SHS shut down due to an increase in coronavirus cases. Everything, even in-person school, was halted until after the winter holiday break.

It was unclear if there was even going to be a winter sports season. In order to get athletics back, a lot of hard work was needed by administrators to ensure a safe athletic environment.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s also brought what’s most important to the forefront,” said Mr. Sean Richmond, Director of Athletics and Student Activities. “You have a lot of people who have worked together to help give kids the opportunity to do what they love to do and have as normal of a high school experience as they possibly can.”

In the fall, athletes were able to compete without masks. Social distancing and many other protocols were still put in place to keep student-athletes safe, but one benefit to being outside was that athletes were able to breathe fresh air while competing. They were not faced with the burden of wearing a mask during competition.

However, winter sports take place inside. Masks become a necessary piece of equipment for all athletes to ensure safety. While they can be uncomfortable, it is what needs to be done to protect the winter sports season.

According to Richmond, the school sanitizes equipment after every activity, and foot pedals have been put on the water coolers to limit contact when hydrating. Athletes and staff have to complete health and safety forms before each practice and game, take temperature checks, and, of course, wear masks at all times.

While athletes understand the importance of masks, it does not make it any more comfortable or enjoyable.

“It’s been really bad, and sometimes I can’t breathe,” said senior Sharisse Coles, a point guard for girls basketball. “It’s not the best, but we are making the best of it.”

No matter how uncomfortable it is to compete at a high level with a mask impairing one’s breathing, it emphasizes safety during these challenging times. After all, every athlete is at the same disadvantage.

“I really didn’t expect us to have a season because it just kept getting delayed, but I’m actually really excited that we do,” said Coles. “It’s our senior year, so we get to have a couple of games at least.”

In the end, athletes are called student-athletes for a reason. The student comes before the athlete. This is because school is always the first priority, and safety measures need to be taken so that the in-person, hybrid and 4-day models are not disrupted due to a COVID-19 outbreak on an athletic team.

“We don’t want to derail school reopening, and that’s really the most important thing, getting everyone back to school,” said Richmond. “Getting our kids back to school is going to be a beneficial thing for everybody’s mental health, for their concept of being in a routine, and for their future.”

As of January 18, 2021, home team parents and family members will be allowed to attend athletic competitions taking place in the SHS gymnasium. Each athlete will be allowed 1-2 family members to attend games, since the maximum capacity cannot exceed 5-10% of the gymnasium fire code. Students still will not be able to attend athletic competitions.

Though they may look and feel much different, winter sports have begun. A new season, a blank page, and a fresh start have arrived for all athletes competing in the gym, on the mat, on the range, or in the pool.

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