Club Sports: RM Athletes Continue Their Athletic Training
October 30, 2020
On Sep. 24, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that local school systems in Maryland could begin the Fall sports season, starting Oct. 7. Montgomery County, however, decided to keep athletics online for the first semester, leaving many student athletes at RM and across the county disappointed. With the closure of school sports, many students have turned to local club sports teams to continue their athletic endeavors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published suggested guidelines for how club sport teams can safely return to playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, including limiting team sizes, spacing out spectators, and distancing players whenever possible. None of these requirements, however, were made mandatory.
Considering the different risks each fall sport presents in inter-school matchups, club sport teams have the advantage of using the CDC suggestions to develop and enforce their own rules and protocols for practices and scrimmages. “I play softball, so most of the time, you can distance relatively well,” freshman Marissa Boucher said. “There’s been a lot more distancing within the dugout, especially around other teams.”
Larger events, such as county or state tournaments, often implement their own safety measures and require all participating teams to follow stricter rules, much more aligned to those laid out by the CDC. “We went to one [tournament] where this dude was walking around, periodically telling us to keep our masks on,” Boucher recalled.
Furthermore, there is no denying club sports have definitely taken a hit, considering the many new changes in place to keep athletes safe. “Well I think there’s definitely a loss of a sense of community,” sophomore and cross-country athlete Pacifico Murphy said. “You’re part of that family and having less of that interaction with your fellow teammates and your coaches, it kinda loses a little bit of what athletics are.”
Cross-country is one of the few team sports considered by Montgomery County and the CDC to be low-risk due to the potential of distanced and individual training. For higher risk sports, however, conducting safe practice sessions is a greater challenge.
As of Aug. 19, research by the CDC approximated that 16 percent of children were entirely asymptomatic, which can result in children spreading the coronavirus without knowing they were ever infected. The risk of children unknowingly transmitting the virus to potentially high-risk individuals is one of the concerns of allowing youth sports to resume.
One method professional sport leagues have been trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is what is known as the bubble method, which forbids anyone in the bubble from interacting with people outside of it.
“Within your own team, you kind of feel safe after a while because the theory is that if someone had [coronavirus] at the beginning, you would all be infected,” Boucher said, “So you become part of the same social circle and you don’t put people outside of the circle at risk.”
The problem with the bubble method, however, is the idea of safety is subjective. If players trust everyone is being safe, coaches might be more lenient about common CDC instructions such as social distancing and wearing a mask. This can be disastrous if even one player gets sick, as it would put their entire team at risk.
Other than the bubble method, club teams have been using different strategies to keep their athletes training. For those running cross-country, “There are apps, mapped out courses, and virtual leaderboards,” said Murphy, “You can run them on your own and kind of compare times.”
Despite all the setbacks the coronavirus pandemic has presented for athletes, there always remains a silver lining. “I guess it’s given me more of a sense of independence,” Murphy admitted. “I’m not relying on the coaches telling me to do everything.”
The addition of club sports has presented a multitude of athletes an outlet to continue their athletic training. Many teams are doing incredible jobs of keeping their players safe while ensuring they can continue training without putting themselves at risk. With the coronavirus pandemic putting the potential return of school sports at a crossroads, time will tell whether these athletes will be able to represent their schools in the near future.