Pandemic forces changes in winter sports preparation

Taylor Spencer, Sports Editor

As the winter sports season begins to take off, coaches and students are following new guidelines and making alterations to prior drills and plans to ensure they are preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

Basketball and wrestling tryouts began Nov. 2, while girls swimming and diving began Nov. 9. Activities director Mitch Lefkowitz said the cancellation of winter sports seems unlikely, but if a cancellation were to occur, it would come from local authorities.

“There is always a chance we can be canceled, but I do not expect MSHSAA to do that. It would either be Rockwood and St. Louis County,” Lefkowitz said. We have already been dealing with cancellations due to Covid positive cases, a delay in practices at other districts, or quarantine issues at other schools. I expect the winter to be no different. We will just be as flexible as possible.”

Wrestling coach Brent Batcheller said the team is taking many precautions to make sure they are staying as safe as possible, especially with wrestling being such a close-contact sport.

“We are splitting our teams into smaller groups, and only allowing one practice partner, and coaches are also staying with specific groups and wearing masks through the duration of practice,” Batcheller said. “Wrestlers are sanitizing their hands more frequently than usual, have to bring their own water source, and are wearing a mask anytime they are not wrestling.”

Boys basketball coach Sam Haug said they have had to alter drills to make them more pandemic-friendly, and are sanitizing their equipment to stay as safe as possible.

“We have tried to modify some of our drills to keep kids more distanced from each other than usual.  We are trying to limit mixing different levels, in case there is a quarantine scenario. We sanitize our equipment more and are looking at limiting the amount of time that we are in a large group, like watching film or riding on a bus,” Haug said.

Haug also said that COVID-19 has limited the team’s ability to grow during the pre-season, and that the virus has impacted the type of drills the program is running.

“We had very limited pre-season development. This year, we were only allowed two days a week before school for skill development, and the only thing we could do was shoot. Our levels will have to be very flexible since players might be quarantined at any moment,” Haug said. “Because players will be moving up and down different levels, we had to make sure that the schemes that we run on each level were the same throughout the program.”

Senior Ruth Vogel, who is on the varsity girls basketball team, said she has to follow set guidelines as a player to take precautions, but she is still excited about playing this season.

“If we show up to basketball practice early, we have to wear a mask while shooting. It can be a little annoying because the mask sometimes interferes with my vision, which can affect my perception. However, you do get used to it. I am excited about this season because as a senior, I want to enjoy my last year playing this sport and experience a leadership role,” Vogel said.

Lefkowitz said winter sports will be limited in attendance, with only two spectators per student allowed, which regulates the number of students that can attend.

“For basketball, we plan to only allow two spectators per athlete to attend. Student attendance is not likely. In addition, for any dual meet wrestling tournament, we do not plan to have spectators. There are just too many people. We are doing our best to space games out and only allow those parents watching their child play into the gym,” Lefkowitz said. “After their kid’s game is over we will clear the gym and allow the next set of parents into the game. Also, our travel to out-of-town tournaments could be canceled.”