Challenges Facing High School Athletes Throughout COVID-19

Plenty of restrictions and regulations have substantially changed high school sports


Charles Marchand, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has affected many people, but arguably some of the most influenced by it are athletes. There are plenty of changes and regulations that have affected athletes at the high school level.

For example, spectators outside of a player’s household have just recently been allowed back into games. For so long, players have lacked the loud, adrenaline filled environment that every player loves.

As of now in Massachusetts, the harshest regulation for these young athletes would be making them wear masks during practices and games. The reason for this is obviously in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, although it seems that many athletes find the masks irritating as many play with their masks under their chin.

Amsden Klinghard

An article from states, “wear a mask to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This is especially important for indoor sports and for players who are not yet vaccinated.” They believe that masks in high school sports are the correct route to take in preventing the virus’ spread.

Although an article from StarTribune says, “There is no science backing up the effectiveness of masks once soaked with sweat, and they pose a risk of serious injury during play.” This article thinks that it is wrong to put masks on young athletes and even question the effectiveness of them while playing.

Clearly, there are different opinions on masks. So, to learn more about the players’ perspective on this topic, I got a chance to ask some of the players on our Sutton High varsity boys basketball team some questions. 

I asked a couple players how playing with a mask has affected them as a player as opposed to playing without one. Guard, Willem Edwards, says, “It is harder to breathe (with masks) which makes it difficult to play for longer stretches.” Power forward, Aidan Rogan, agrees saying, “it’s obviously harder to breathe when u get tired.” So, it is clear that one of the biggest problems surrounding playing with masks would be the ability to breathe easily.

Besides masks making it tougher to breathe, the players also talked about other problems regarding them. Willem Edwards adds, “when a player’s mask gets torn off the refs have to stop the game which can slow momentum.” And Aidan Rogan mentions, “It makes it more difficult to communicate when your on the floor. It’s harder to hear coaches and players.” This means that the masks have affected more than just the individuals’ physical health, but also the game play.

Amsden Klinghard

Although Willem and Aidan seemed upset about playing with masks, I wanted to know if the benefits of preventing COVID-19 outweighed their dislike towards the masks. So, I asked them if they believe that they should still be wearing masks during games.

Willem stated, “No I do not. I believe that enough people are vaccinated and a lot of players just pull their mask to their chin.” Aidan believes “it should be up to the individual.” It seems that many players do not care for the masks and wish for many of the COVID-19 regulations to end.

But the regulations go beyond the players. They affect the coaches as well. To get the coaches perspective on the situation, I interviewed the head coach of Sutton High’s boys varsity basketball team, Coach Niedzwiecki.

I asked him what the toughest part of coaching through the pandemic has been for him. “Not being able to connect with kids like we have in the past especially last year. All the restrictions haven’t allowed us to connect on a non basketball level” he answered.

After hearing what the coach had to say, I understood that COVID-19 has not only affected the sport on the court, but off it as well. 

Another way that COVID-19 has created conflict throughout this year’s sports season are lockdowns. When thinking about all of the regulations created throughout these times, we sometimes forget that these players can still contract the virus. But, when enough players on a team get COVID-19, the team is required to go into a lockdown. 

These lockdowns can last anywhere from a week to about two weeks. The time off for those teams can be a very bad thing as it reschedules their games during the lockdown condensing their games even more for the rest of their season. This means that the teams that had the lockdown will have less practice in between games to prepare for their opposing teams. So, to say the least, a COVID-19 lockdown can be quite unfortunate for these players and coaches.

Surprisingly enough, our very own Sutton varsity boys basketball team had recently been in a lockdown. A total of about 10 players had caught COVID-19 over about a two week period from late December into early January. 

As you can see, throughout the pandemic, athletes have been hugely affected. Through masks, restrictions/regulations, and lockdowns, sports have not been the same for these young, high school athletes.