Callie Hawkins

Athletic Department adjustments amidst COVID-19 force athletes to journey farther for games and events

Throughout the winter season, many winter sports have begun to travel for more away games and matches, with less regard for COVID-19 than fall sports, despite rising concern.

The soccer, basketball and wrestling teams have been traveling around the DFW area and some even to Oklahoma to compete with teams in their conference. As the winter sports season comes to a close and the spring sports season approaches, spring sports teams will continue to travel to away games and follow the same guidelines the winter teams had to.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is at the forefront of all discussions regarding athletic practices, games and travel,” Associate Athletic Director David Tollison said. “Obviously, traveling outside the city required careful consideration among the administration and our health and safety committee. Great consideration [has gone] into our protocols, the protocols of the opponengts we play and how we can safely travel to and from any competition.”

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is at the forefront of all discussions regarding athletic practices, games and travel.”

David Tollison,
Associate Athletic Director

The school’s Health and Safety Committee and the administration helped the Athletic Department make the decisions of going to away games and what the protocols would be. They came to the conclusion that schools that had similar health and safety COVID-19 protocols, mainly in ESD’s conference, were safe to play with.

“As long as we can have transportation where we are socially distanced and we can travel there and back in the same day, away trips are permitted,” Womens Soccer Program Director and Sports Fellowship Coordinator Susan Quill said. “We were encouraged to not engage in games or tournaments outside of our conference.”

All of the high school sports teams at the school are part of the Southwest Preparatory Conference, which is split into North and South teams. In a usual year, the teams would play all of the teams in the conference and then have a tournament toward the end of the season. This is what the conference hopes to accomplish in the spring season. However, in the winter season, the conference crowned a champion by awarding points based on a win, loss or tie. This winter a North Zone champion and a South Zone champion were named. The tournament was canceled because of the uncertainty of COVID-19, the unexpected new strand and for the overall protection of students’ health and safety. 

“[The Casady game] was just scheduled because they are in our conference and the conference assigns games, and there were no objections by [the coaches] or the school,” Quill said. “There aren’t any overnight trips right now, so it was scheduled early in the day so we could go up and back on the same day.”

The Casady School in Oklahoma city––the only team in the North Zone outside of the DFW area––is part of the SPC and was the furthest the winter teams traveled to this year by far. Sophomore Madison McCloud on varsity womens basketball felt comfortable with the team’s mask-wearing compliance, but before the team’s trip to Oklahoma she was a bit nervous. 

“We left early in the morning, and on the bus ride, we had to sit with a seat in between each row, and no one could be next to you,” McCloud said. “The only time we could take our mask off was when we were eating. I felt pretty comfortable [at the school] because the whole time we were wearing our masks until the game. We warmed up in our mask, [and] we had to wear our mask in the locker room and on the bench, but when we played, we got to take them off.”

The entire winter season, things had to be moved around for many different reasons. The womens soccer team had to quarantine for two weeks due to a player contracting the virus, and the same thing happened to the mens soccer team. 

“[Sports scheduling] has been a fluid and ever-changing situation to say the least,” Tollison said. “We are constantly shuffling around game days, game times, officials, senior nights, etc., depending on whether or not any of our teams or opponents have had a recent positive COVID-19 case or are in quarantine for contact tracing purposes.”

The spring season is predicted to be in the same sort of situation. Continuing into this season of sports, teams are wearing masks as much as possible, with coaches wearing them at all times, especially when traveling for away games. 

“I know a lot of times we forget [to wear masks],” mens varsity baseball coach Albert Najera said. “It’s definitely something we have to get used to because who knows how long it’s going to be this way. Other than that, we are going to follow whatever the school’s guidelines we are competing with, but we have our own that we need to follow too on top of that, just to make sure we are being as careful as possible.”

The spring season SPC tournament is still scheduled to occur at the end of the season for the first time since the winter season of 2019-2020. Teams will be able to travel more and possibly to further distances, but it all depends on the COVID-19 and quarantine situations of the competing teams.

“The school and the administration have done a great job of making sure that our athletes and coaches are safe and healthy,” Najera said. “The bottom line is what I told our players on day one is that I’m just thankful we have baseball. I’m just thankful that I am coaching at a school that cares about the team and its coaches and cares about our sports programs to be able to do what we love to do.”

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