Sloane Hope

Parents, families of athletes now able to attend games, possibility of student attendance in the future

While little has changed regarding COVID-19 protocols during sports practices and games, one major update has players, students and parents buzzing: spectators now being allowed at sporting events.

According to a Feb. 26 notice sent out to upper school parents and students, a new spectator policy went into effect on March 1st. The policy update stipulates that each student athlete participating in a home game will be given two wristbands per game to give to spectators of their choice; however, the spectators must be over 18. According to Jeff Laba, the Assistant Head of Upper School, factors such as SPC guidelines and meetings between the Health and Safety and Athletic departments all contributed to the decision.

“There was a lot taken into consideration,” Laba said. “Our Health and Safety Committee and the Athletic Department meet before each season to talk about the possibility of any changes to the current guidelines. At those meetings, they look at many aspects, like what peer schools such as Saint Marks and Hockaday are doing, what SPC is allowing us to do and what rules Health and Safety believes need to be enforced.”

At the moment, only families of the players are allowed attendance, however, the school is open to the possibility of student spectators in the future. According to Laba, the administration is looking into allowing seniors at a few games during the upcoming sports season.

“We have a couple of games picked out after spring break that we believe Health and Safety will let us allow seniors to go to,” Laba said. “We’re trying to pick out one game for each sport, so one game for baseball, one game for softball and one for both mens and womens lacrosse that students can go to.”

Senior Lily Yandell hopes the administration can pull through on its hopes to have students at games for the end of the second semester, noting just how dismal the past few months have been without being able to go to games.

“Not being able to attend games has not been great for school spirit or student morale,” Yandell said. “We are so burned out, all of us. The work of high school without the social aspect is very tough. Not only is it high school, but one of the hardest and most competitive schools in the state, so it can be a little bit crushing.”

Prior to the policy change, many spectators, parents and students decided to stand by the fence along Midway road to watch many of the games that took place on the turf. A March 2 men’s varsity lacrosse game against Highland Park saw a record high number of students and parents along Midway, as everyone was eager to see how the long-standing rivalry would pan out. However, many were questioning whether or not being allowed in the stands would have been the safer option. 

“I don’t think standing on Midway is a bad plan since we aren’t allowed on campus,” Yandell said. “I’m in support of it, and quite honestly plan to do so myself. If [the administration] was to allow fans into the stands, assigned seating would probably be the way they would do it, which isn’t optimal, but it’s better than standing on Midway.”

Despite everything, including the inevitable spacing of students in the stands at future games, Yandell is excited about the possibility of getting to attend the last few games of her senior year, providing some semblance of normality during an otherwise atypical final year.

“Quite honestly, this has just been just another nail in the coffin of making senior year sad,” Yandell said. “I don’t blame the administration, I understand that they have to keep us safe, but it really is unfortunate. I really regret not going to more games as an underclassman.”

It is safe to say that the players on these various teams are just as excited about fans as the fans themselves. Senior Samantha Whiting, a captain of the Women’s Varsity Lacrosse team, is looking forward to returning to normal games before she leaves for Princeton University in the fall to continue her lacrosse career.

“I am very excited about the decision to allow spectators,” Whiting said. “Many parents would come and watch our games from Midway, but having them in the stands just makes games so much more electric and life feel normal again.”

Whiting says that she wholeheartedly believes fans are one of the keys to optimal player performance and that nothing could replace the hole left by a lack of an in-person audience.

“Having people in the stands one hundred percent affects the players and how well they perform,” Whiting said. “Having people cheer you on and hype you and your teammates up makes the successes sweeter and softens the blow of mistakes. It’s impossible to feel the same energy when all of your fans are watching from behind a computer screen.”

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