Winter sports resume after COVID-19 spike among coaches, players

Juniors Sydnie Smith and Madison Ingram celebrate at practice. (Photo by Carolyn Islay)

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases has caused multiple winter sports to cancel or postpone several practices and games.

Varsity girls basketball coach Brycen Baugh said that three of their games and four boys basketball games were delayed.

Athletes and coaches who are exposed to COVID-19 are tested, and those who test positive have to quarantine for five days, Baugh said.

Athletic trainer Gail Swisher said that the return to play process varies based on the symptoms the players experience. She explained that there is a three step return-to-play process which involves increasing the players’ amount of athletic activity by 30 minutes each day.

“We ask players about their symptoms and make sure they are totally asymptomatic before clearing them to play again,” Swisher said.

At the beginning of January, the trainers began allowing players to return and continued to check in with those who had been affected by COVID-19 even after they had been cleared.

Cheer coach Brooke Wojcik said that unlike basketball, the cheer team only had to cancel practice once, but at most of their practices a large number of people were missing due to COVID-19.

“It has made it really difficult to move forward or make much progress,” Wojcik said.

Junior swim captain Bridget O’Reilly said that similar to the cheer team, the swim teams’ biggest problems have been that individual people were missing from practices and meets.

“It has been difficult to practice relays because we need certain people to swim in a certain place,” O’Reilly said. “We can’t just replace them.”

Varsity boys basketball coach Todd Phillips said that he tested positive after exposure to COVID-19 at practice and added that missing games was one of the hardest things he has gone through as a coach.

“I can’t compare it to anything I have done professionally,” Phillips said. “It was just impossible. I was pacing around my living room floor watching it on TV.”

Assistant boys varsity basketball coach Pete Liptrap said he also had to be quarantined and that in his 42 years of coaching, this has been the strangest season he has ever coached.

“This experience has been hard on all the coaches, but I don’t think there is anyone who could have handled it better than Coach Phillips,” Liptrap said.

By delaying the games initially scheduled over winter break, coaches have had to work diligently to try to add more games into an already busy schedule, Baugh explained.

“We will probably be playing three games per week until the second week of February,” Baugh said.

The increase in games per week would also mean that teams would have fewer practices, Baugh said.

Phillips said that the boys basketball team has come back stronger after the difficulties they’ve faced.

“COVID-19 brought the team together and made us tougher,” he said. “That has been made clear at every practice.”