It seems there are more questions around school sports than there are answers. This is a complicated topic, and health and safety are being ranked above gameplay, as they should. In recent news, many of the big school conferences have begun postponing their seasons to the spring. At a local level, we see many states and provinces cancel their sports seasons for the fall as well.
With professional sports having returned to play, we have seen various successes from the different leagues. The NBA has done a tremendous job keeping their ‘bubble’ COVID free and seems to have created a benchmark for the other leagues. The MLB has condensed their season and is still travelling. There have been outbreaks among some of the teams, most noteworthy being the Miami Marlins. Other sports leagues have done well. However, they can control environments, test often, and have policies in place to deal with positive COVID tests.
In most recent news, the NFL is investigating a COVID testing lab in New Jersey after multiple teams received close to double-digit positive tests. Shortly after receiving the tests, it was found that many were false positives. Testing is and will remain a pivotal piece to return to play. If the ability to test accurately comes into question, it could delay sports.
Having learned from professional sports, how can we apply that to school sports? There is a harsh reality that creating a controlled environment like the pros have done, is much harder for schools. In high school, kids travel home every day, and risk exposure is higher. Colleges and Universities can attempt to keep athletes contained on campus, and they would rely on all the competing schools to do the same to create an extended bubble for the athletes.
Based on our research, it appears that the Fall 2020 sports season has a high probability of being cancelled and/or postponed. In college sports, we see major conferences like the BIG 10 and PAC 12 delaying the Fall 2020 season. For high school athletes, it appears many school districts are following suit with colleges and universities. The California Interscholastic Federation has already postponed sports until December 2020 or January 2021. In Canada, Saskatoon (in Saskatchewan) has decided to cancel the Fall 2020 season, and British Columbia may decide to do the same province-wide.
If sports were to return in the fall, there would need to be new policies for the health and safety of all the athletes. Below are a few:
- Athletes will need to be tested within 24 hours of gameplay to be allowed to compete. If an athlete were to test positive for COVID, they must quarantine for 14 days.
- Spectators should be limited in attendance. Those that do attend should practice social distancing and wear masks.
- Do not share food, drinks or snacks among the teams. It is best to have individually wrapped food for each athlete.
- All equipment and clothing should be disinfected and cleaned each day. Athletes should practice social distancing when possible and wash their hands often.