With the myriad of challenges COVID had brought, the athletic department has made many changes to allow sports to be played this season. As sports are an integral part of the Emery community, administrators have been working hard to continue athletics while keeping the community safe.
Athletic Director Angela Gubitz, coaches of winter sports teams, the Medical Advisory Panel, and players themselves all agree that keeping the community safe is the top priority. One area that has involved careful thought and deliberation is what Emery’s masking policy should be. Despite many differing opinions in the community, the decision was up to the athletic staff in accordance with the recommendations of the Medical Advisory Panel.
When asked how the decision was made, Coach Gubitz shared, “I work closely with our medical panel as well as with Mr. Dow, our head of school, to determine how we can play safely, and how we can have the opportunity to compete, even though a pandemic.” Additionally, a survey was sent out to determine the comfort level of players and their families this season. With the survey responses in mind, the Medical Advisory Panel concluded that the following expectation would be put in place:
“We have decided that our student-athletes will continue to wear masks at all times, including during practice and gameplay.”
As for Emery’s opponents, the policy differs between soccer and basketball. In soccer, opponents are asked to wear masks, but nothing more than the TAPPS league minimum (to wear a mask at all times except during gameplay) will be required. Basketball, on the other hand, requires opposing teams to wear a mask at all times, including gameplay, and refusal to comply will likely result in forfeiting the game.
Boys basketball coach Kevin Lewis has experienced firsthand the discussions that occur amongst both staff and players, and is proud that Emery is “doing all the right things to make sure we keep the kids safe.” Recognizing that some players have been struggling with the discomfort of wetness, itchiness, and shortness of breath, Coach Lewis found solutions such as recommending that they have a spare mask on hand.
Even though the situation is not ideal, his players are “wearing the masks religiously and not complaining about them, because the kids understand how important it is to stay safe.”
Players see both positives and negatives with the mask requirement, but the common thread in all of their opinions is that the health and safety of everyone involved are the top priority. Varsity basketball player and junior Hayden Deutsch thinks one negative of wearing masks is that they “get so drenched that sweat is dripping everywhere.” He views the masks as an added challenge, but also believes that they “strengthen our conditioning and challenge everyone to work even harder.”
Junior and varsity girls soccer player Sam Winterman is also in favor of the new mask policy, though she explains how soccer is different in its requirements. “As a goalkeeper, I am normally away from a lot of other people on the field, so it doesn’t concern me as much as my teammates when the opponent is not wearing a mask.” She feels safe on the field, and the girls soccer team is in favor of the policy. “Everyone gets to stay safe and healthy, and that’s obviously our main concern,” Winterman explains.
No matter the circumstances, the Emery community has been cheering for its winter sports teams at home and away games. “I’m hoping that we can get through the winter in a positive way, our kids can all have full seasons, and we can also stay safe and not have a major outbreak,” says Gubitz. “So far, things have gone really well.”