What has it been like playing a “High Risk” sport during COVID?


Oscar Hayes, Contributing Writer

When I asked Hastings High School basketball players if they had thought they were going to have a season at all, they all said they had believed that it was unlikely. 

With this pandemic there truly has been a significant limit on sports. From professional athletes to high school ones in a small town like Hastings, sports have undergone colossal challenges while trying to keep their seasons —especially with “High Risk” ones like basketball.

 But those challenges have not stopped our athletic department and school district from making sure we had some high school basketball to look forward to.

Mr. Rohle, assistant coach of the Girls Varsity team, told me that “Mr. Wendol [The athletic director] was very proactive in making sure we had a season.” The athletic department persisted in making sure we had a season despite all of the limitations.

Mr. Rohle told me that with this season there has been “a lot of pressure” on coaches and players to keep everyone healthy. One positive COVID test would essentially end a team’s season, so it was important to be extra cautious. This meant making sacrifices, such as restricting who players saw socially. It was not worth the risk of a positive case. 

Even with all the precautions, however, the Boys Varsity team sadly had to cancel the end of their season due to a positive test. Billy Murnighan, a freshman on the team, still told me that “it was great to play for the two or three weeks that we had practice.” 

Players and coaches knew that there were huge risks but were truly just thankful that they could play at all. Another challenge that several coaches and players told me about was the practices themselves, which were in no way ordinary. 

Murnighan said that there have been “more drills and working on yourself and not as much playing.” This change was true with the Girls Varsity team as well. Senior Lindsey Drozd told me that “in the beginning of the season, we had practices without any contact. It was a bit annoying.” Unlike most seasons where you have fun one-on-ones and scrimmages, this year the practices were more individual. As with the practices, games this season were also out of the ordinary. The most significant change was having no fans. “Games are quiet,” said Murnighan. “[Having] no fans creates a different atmosphere. At home games, players live off the fans’ intensity. It is different and not as lively.” 

It was a huge loss for players, students, and parents that fans were unable to attend this season. Another difference at games was, of course, the masks. Despite the constant contact, the county decided that athletes must be wearing masks at all times. This produced struggles for a lot of the players. Both Drozd and Murnighan told me that it is definitely “harder to breathe” not only during games, but also during practices when they were running and working out.   

In the end, this season was never going to be perfect and some teams got to play more than others. However, the players and coaches are really just glad they got the opportunity. As one of the players on the Bboys team told me “It [was] great to get back out there and see a lot of friends. Even playing masked, it was still a great opportunity.”

And there were also successes. The Girls Varsity team won the sectional finals, something they were cut short from doing last year. To conclude, this season wasn’t normal, it was far from perfect, but at the end of the day these players got to play, despite all the challenges presented. Everyone persevered, and we even ended up bringing a championship home.