- New school reopening guidelines released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have schools questioning whether sports should resume, especially indoors, NPR reports. The guidelines suggest in areas with high coronavirus transmission rates, athletic events should only take place if they can be done outdoors and with a physical distance of 6 feet or more.
- A recent report from CDC examined virus spread following two wrestling tournaments held in Florida in early December where one attendee later tested positive for COVID-19, finding that 38 of 54 attendees tested were confirmed positive — a 70% rate. Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics also particularly recommends against mask wearing for competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, wrestling and water sports.
- Despite guidelines, different jurisdictions have different rules: For example, Louisiana had both fall and winter sports, as did Pittsburgh, with an interruption in December and January. A #LetThemPlay hashtag has also been circulating, urging state and local governments to allow students to return to sports.
Despite many schools remaining closed for in-person learning, there is a growing push to get students back into sports. The issue is particularly important for juniors and seniors who are seeking scholarships. The rules around whether to allow athletics to resume, be they indoor or out, vary greatly by region.
Many are making determinations based on COVID-19 transmission rates. In Washington state, for example, students only recently were allowed to compete. Some states, however, have less stringent rules in place and have left their sports schedules intact, leading many aspiring athletes to relocate.
The issue gets more complicated in California, where the California Interscholastic Federation updated a bylaw that now forbids student athletes from participating in both school and club sports at the same time. This is due to the idea that athletes and coaches should be in only one "cohort" so as not to further the spread of the virus if one becomes infected.
To make the most of a difficult situation, college recruiters and coaches are working to connect kids to opportunities even without a season. A survey from Next College Student Athlete finds most colleges are still recruiting even though they’ve suspended in-person recruitment.
Virtual communication has become a key way to connect — be it by video, text message or email. Some students are using footage from home practice, rather than game situations. The NCSA also reports online recruiting profiles have increased by 17%. Recruitment is becoming more flexible, as well. Some students may be granted a fifth year in college if they have to miss a year due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
As case numbers fall, many states are allowing students to return to competitive sports. Guidelines, however, remain a work-in-progress. The National Federation of State High School Associations released new information earlier this month that classifies non-contact outdoor sports as showing the lowest risk of transmission. Participants in other outdoor sports showed lower rates of infection than indoor sports, and the use of face masks for indoor sports have about the same transmission rates as those seen in outdoor sports.