July 26, 2021

Pandemic sports

Sports in a pandemic has been interesting. And frustrating at times.

As I roamed the sidelines at the UNI-Dome for my final fall sporting event of the season on Saturday, I thought at times about how some thought we wouldn't get to this point.

I wasn't sure how things would go for baseball and softball. By all accounts, it was a successful summer.

The fall presented more challenges with less naturally distanced sports and indoor sports like volleyball and swimming.

I certainly don't think it was a perfect season. There were hiccups with team's seasons ending prematurely and fans not doing the best they could to socially distance or even wear masks when asked.

All five of the area football teams were able to finish their seasons with postseason games.

Lynnville-Sully was forced to miss a few weeks when the school district decided to go to all virtual learning in the middle of the season. And Newton had several players out during the early part of the season.

As far as I know, there wasn't very many issues with volleyball either. A few players had to miss games due to COVID-19 or contact tracing and L-S took time off like the football team during the all virtual learning time.

Cross country went well, too. I wasn't aware of any area runners who missed meets because of COVID-19 aside from L-S. All five schools were able to finish the season though.

There were some issues around the state. West Des Moines Valley's football season ended early because of the coronavirus. So did Clear Creek-Amana's volleyball season.

All programs in the Des Moines Public School District didn't have much of a season, but that was because of the decision by administration to go all virtual for most of the fall.

I think they returned long enough for some swim teams to qualify for and compete at the state meet. But I believe the district has gone back to all virtual so winter sports will be certainly be affected, too.

It does feel like things are teetering toward another shut down. Numbers aren't good around the state. Iowa is ranked as one of the worst right now as far as COVID-19 cases go. Hospital beds also are filling up. And some hospitals have staffing issues.

Athletics at Newton and Colfax-Mingo are paused right now as the districts are working their way through a stretch of all virtual learning. C-M is out until at least Nov. 20 and Newton just extended their virtual learning through the Thanksgiving break late last week.

School districts are making decisions based on their own situations. I have no issues with one school deciding to do nothing and another choosing to go all virtual or to use a hybrid model.

Our daughter started the year doing virtual learning but has since returned to the classroom. It has been good so far. And she does better in school than out of it.

But we will get through this stretch of all virtual learning because it's part of life. Adults just have to adapt to things like this. I think the kids already have.

I have seen a few comments on my social media accounts that an area school wasn't doing all virtual or a hybrid model because its football team was still playing.

I probably can't convince some of those folks that it's not the only thing getting considered.

I did listen to that school's emergency school board meeting on Friday.

None of the school board members brought up the football team. But some did have concerns about letting fans from other districts into their buildings for events.

They also admitted that it was the toughest decision they've ever had to make as a school board member.

Administrators want the kids in school. It's obviously the best way for most kids.

Teachers want them in school, too. They don't get vacations if kids aren't in the building. They still have to work and the job is certainly tougher when you are doing it over Zoom.

Winter sports kick off this week. L-S hosted its annual girls' basketball jamboree on Monday and opens the season on Friday at EBF.

Newton won't have its opening weekend invitational on Saturday.

Hopefully all five schools can get sports going soon, but we should all probably expect some pauses, delays, cancellations or postponements to work through this winter.

Be sure to check out guidelines at the school's you are attending for athletics. Most schools follow the conference's guidelines. Several area schools require masks at their events, too.

Make sure you have what you need to get in. And let's all do our part to make sure these high school athletes can get a season in.

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@shawmedia.com