Sports: Where Positive Results are a Good Thing
Baker Reding '21
As the pandemic began, spring sports were in the hot seat. With schools shuttered, and students hunkered down for online classes to finish out the quarter, the chance to play a spring sport seemed far-fetched. After weeks of start dates and competition protocols being adjusted, seniors of the 2020 class received devastating news; they would never have the chance to play for the Cadets again.
As summer came closer and closer, the ability to organize practices and football-related workouts became a reality. The football team still operated on their normal three-times per week workout regiment, while other fall sports like soccer and cross country also had the opportunity to gather together and practice.
From the perspective of a football player, everything seemed to be carrying on as we had previously hoped, until July 2nd, when I received a text from a close friend saying, “I just wanted to let you know that I tested positive for coronavirus.” With plans to go to a friend’s cabin for the 4th of July, I began to scramble to find a COVID-19 test. While that test came back positive, with the proper distancing and sanitizing procedures, no one in my football “pod” needed to quarantine.
For the football team, contact tracing became a weekly occurrence. At the beginning of the school year, our desks/classrooms were too close together, resulting in everyone within a desk’s reach being quarantined if someone tested positive next to them. This proved to be a unique hoop to jump through for the football team. We were constantly told by Coach O’Brien that things would stay the same, and it was “next man up on the depth chart.” On a weekly basis, we found ourselves missing key starters on the offensive line, like Leo Bluhm and many others, due to contact tracing. Other schools found this to also be a problem. It was not rare for games to be canceled two or three days before kickoff, leaving athletic directors and coaches scrambling to find an opponent for that week.
Perhaps the most devastating to the players was the absence of large crowds and loud fans encouraging them play-by-play. Football players lean on the student section for constant support and encouragement throughout each game. Each fan was allowed two tickets in ordinance with the 250 fan limit at each game. As we watched the film from our first game against Coon Rapids, we heard unusual sounds. Confused as to what it was at first, we soon realized what was making us cringe, our own voices. Never before had I been able to hear my own voice from a camera at the top of the stands, but it soon made sense to me: we were the only ones making any noise.
This phenomenon however is not unique. In recent weeks, the basketball team has had their troubles with COVID tests. During week two of games, an opponent they played tested positive, resulting in all varsity players except a few being quarantined. This led to the JV team taking the place of Varsity for a game, putting up a good fight against a tough opponent.
Similarly, a positive test on the wrestling team left a few competitors out for a few days. “It hasn’t been easy seeing people get quarantined, but that is just the way it is right now,” said senior wrestler Garrison Solliday ‘21. Looking ahead to the spring, the MSHSL is seeking to extend the spring seasons by a few weeks to leave room for contact tracing, perhaps to avoid JV teams competing against varsity teams to cover for quarantined players.
Ultimately, this year has been like no other for sports whether it be fan restrictions, COVID positive tests, or protocols. As a senior, I am thankful to be able to compete in some capacity despite the various hoops to jump through. I keep in mind that many seniors across the country did not have the opportunity to participate in a sport in their senior year. I am grateful because a shortened season is better than no season at all.