What will sports inside the gym look like during the pandemic?
When sports were cancelled back in March, there was one question was been lingering in the back of everyone's minds: how do we bring them back? Well, as we see the summer months close and fall start to creep around the corner, we are finally getting our answer. However, is the answer we have been presented the most safe and precaution filled one as possible, or are we doomed to see sports get stripped from us once again? The answer to that isn't as simple as yes or no.
When conducting research on this article, I decided it would be best to get a run down of the scenario from someone who knows a thing or two about the subject, that person being Coach Jordahn Shiley, the head coach of our volleyball team. Shiley informed me that there have been many precautions set by the school in order to protect the fans, coaching staff/refs, and others who may be involved. During practice, Coaches are responsible for "taking temperatures, cleaning the volleyballs, and cleaning all weights and exercises equipment used," says Coach Shiley. She went on to describe the layout for game days. Visiting fans and home fans are directed into two separate entrances, with visiting fans ending up sitting on the top layer of the gym while the home fans sit on the bottom floor.
While I was satisfied with my talk with Coach Shiley, I figured it would be best to get some hands on experience on what sports look like during these hard and confusing times, which lead me to attending the volleyball game were the Blazers faced off against Blacksburg. When I arrived, I observed the dual entrance that Coach Shiley talked about and had my temperature checked. One of the first things you notice when you walk into the gym is the way the bleachers are set up. For every row open for seating, there are two rows closed for social distancing, which makes the capacity of the building significantly limited. You would also notice the masses of people who are wearing a mask on the bleachers. As a matter of fact, the mask wearing continued off the bleachers and onto the volleyball bench, where all the players are required to wear them. After finding a good spot to sit, I soon noticed the first flaw in the new sports system.
Although they may have closed down some of the rows were you could have sat on to help with social distancing, there is no limitation to how many people you can fit onto one row. While as the game, I saw plenty of people cramming their friends onto tiny rows trying to make sure they could all experience the game together. There was also another flaw I had noticed that is more so a loophole that allows people to not were mask in the gym. The gym itself allows food items that have been bought from the concession stand to be brought back into the gym so you can enjoy your snacks while watching the game. This by itself sounds like a good idea until you realize that the only way to eat your snacks is to take your mask off. Normally, you would simply take off your mask, quickly eat your snack, and then put it back on. However, if someone wanted to, they could just eat very, very slowly and have an excuse to not where their mask.
On the topic of people wearing mask, there was a noticeable shift in the amount of people who decided to keep their mask on as the night grew longer. By the second half of the varsity game, all it took was a simple glance around the bleachers to spot multiple people not wearing mask. Something that did catch me off guard was that at that point the officials who were once getting on to people for not wearing a mask had seceded their post and had stopped getting people in trouble.
However, that does not mean the people in charge are not trying to do good. While there, I saw the ball in use cleaned a good many times. Also, there was a universal respect amongst the fans watching the game where you would not touch the volleyball if it came to you. The fans also still had the spirit to cheer on the players during these hard times for all of us.
Although this article might have had a harsh tone toward the way in which sports have been run this year so far, it is important to remember that it is truly a miracle that sports are even around this year. Both faculty and the players have made big sacrifices in order to present us with sports this year. In addition, we are still in the beginning stages of working out the kinks of this years sports. The school could do more when it comes to enforcing things like mask wearing and such. We must also better encourage the people there to where a mask, for we can only ask so much of our staff. That being said, to answer the question at the beginning of the article, sports will more then likely not be cancelled this year, but we must always act like they could at any moment. It is up to us to take this virus seriously and make sure the worst doesn't come to fruition.