As spring sports draw to a close, Blake as a whole must look back on sports during the 2021-2022 season in general. Marred by COVID-19, athletes and coaches alike had to overcome significant obstacles as MCPS attempted to return to normal. However, these struggles did not start in 2021.
“As with school, sports were … completely virtual from March 2020 through February 2021. [Blake’s] Fall 2020 season was condensed to a short season in March-April 2021 and [its] Spring 2021 season started and ended later than usual.” Athletic Director Jared Fribush states.
He continues, “We went from wearing masks full time in Spring 2021 and limiting spectators to returning this year with masks being optional outdoors and only required for [Volleyball] indoors in the Fall.”
(Girls Volleyball player Charlotte Richesson described this as “torture.”)
“The masking requirements continued into Winter 2021-2022, with masking restrictions easing as the season went on,” Mr. Fribush adds.
Unfortunately, the winter COVID surge happened not too long after those rules were put in place.
“Though everybody was vaccinated, they all got COVID,” Basketball coach and English teacher Omari Daniel points out. “Almost every team around the country had a COVID issue.”
Daniel adds, “We could barely start the season because we couldn’t get enough people to register, … we could not have a full practice until November, … and we had to take people to [Girls] Varsity [Basketball, which means] they didn’t get to develop [their skills].”
This was in spite of “MCPS [deciding] to require proof of vaccination to participate [in winter sports,” according to Mr. Fribush.
Eventually, the outbreak ended, and Mr. Fribush states that “MCPS included a religious exemption to the vaccination requirement, which opened the door for additional students to participate.”
Outdoor Track coach and Math teacher Darius Oxley states that MCPS “added … medical [exemptions as well, but they] did not really advertise that.”
Some athletes applauded this decision.
“I don’t think [proof of vaccination] should [be required],” Track player Sierra Swangin states. “Even if [students don’t] show their validation … some [of them] still won’t wear their masks … and [they] could still have COVID.”
“[We] should have [those] records … if everybody’s vaccinated … [no one will] feel scared,” Coed Volleyball player Kymani Bone counters.
This debate is happening among coaches as well.
Tennis coach and Math teacher Benjamin Na argues, “I do think … without having that proof of being vaccinated, [some players could be a] danger to the entire team and [to] the other players … [it’s] essential … [especially since] mask regulations have been lifted.”
On the other hand, Mr. Oxley states, “I feel like … [removing the vaccine mandate] helps other people … [because they have] freedom to still be on the team.”
Another question that arises is whether or not proof of vaccination requirements will continue into next year or not.
“It’s really hard to say. I think it will carry on the same as this year … we are constantly learning new information about the virus, its variants, and how they spread. I think [the COVID vaccine] eventually … will get grouped in with all the other vaccines that people get,” states Softball coach and Wheaton High School teacher Amanda Petersen.
“I hope [those requirements continue],” Mr. Na says, adding, “I think they should.”
Despite the conflicting opinions on these issues, all at Blake should recognize the resilience of Blake sports ever since the beginning of the pandemic. As we continue to return to normal, let’s hope that sports return to normal as well!