Fall sports to return in spring: What students need to know

Students+cheer+for+the+football+team+during+homecoming+in+2019.+Fans+will+be+prohibited+from+coming+to+athletic+events+this+spring.

Photo courtesy Wootton Athletics website

Students cheer for the football team during homecoming in 2019. Fans will be prohibited from coming to athletic events this spring.

A buzz. An email. A smile. When student-athletes across the county saw the email from MCPS that fall sports were going to take place this spring, they were thrilled. For seniors who worried about never being able to play high school sports ever again, this opportunity was like taking a breath of fresh air. For freshmen, it was a chance to be welcomed into the world of high school sports.

The decision to return to sports was made on Jan. 29 and is outlined in the extensive Return to Raise plan. The 16-page plan includes a timeline to safely return to sports this spring while taking the necessary health protocols. According to the Return to Raise plan, fall sports will start virtually on Feb. 13 and move to in-person athletics on Feb. 27. On March 5, If COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease, competitions between schools may occur.

MCPS has created a set of detailed rules and guidelines that all athletes must follow to participate in fall sports. Athletes must bring a mask, hand sanitizer, a labeled water bottle, a towel and the necessary sports equipment to all in-person activities. “I feel pretty comfortable (participating in fall sports) knowing everyone is going to do their part to stay safe for the whole team. If we’re wearing masks I feel extra comfortable,” freshman Danielle Ram said.

The bottom line is safety comes before all else.”

— Chris Thompson

In addition to the rules for all of the players, there are also rules that all coaches must follow. Coaches must wear masks at all times and complete an online course about how to keep themselves and the athletes safe. “The bottom line is safety comes before all else. There is no personal acceptance here, only what health professionals recommend and mandate we all do,” girls’ varsity soccer coach Chris Thompson said.

There will also be a limit to the number of people who can participate in one activity at one time. For indoor activities, the maximum number of people that can participate is 10 people and for outdoor activities, it is a maximum of 25 people. According to the Return to Raise plan, maximum participant numbers may be changed, to meet necessary health protocols. During participation, athletes and coaches must try to remain six feet apart whenever possible.

Games will be played without spectators in three divisions containing eight to nine schools that are geographically close together. Wootton is in the central division with B-CC, Churchill, Walter Johnson, Whitman, Rockville, Magruder and Richard Mongomery. “We will operate to the extent we can, based on school operations and guidance from our COVID-19 Task Force for MCPS Athletics,” MCPS Systemwide Athletics Specialist Kathy Green said.

Even though student-athletes are excited about sports, safety is still important. With the guidance of MCPS, a safe return to athletics this spring is possible. “Out of all the problems this pandemic has caused, missing sports may not be at the top of the list, but it is still important,” Thompson said.