Fall sports resume practices under new St. Louis County guidelines

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Reilley Farrar

The boys soccer team seen here at one of their first scrimmages of the season. “I was very excited to be able to play again because all we’ve been doing for the past month was conditioning” said Nate Martin, senior.

The fall sports season is unlike anything that we have ever experienced. All over the metro St. Louis area, schools have taken their own approach to sports participation. 

In early August, County Executive Sam Page put out guidelines for high school fall sports. He allowed low to no contact sports like tennis, golf, cross country and swimming to practice. People in St. Louis County were already aggravated about restrictions to youth sports and this only further divided them. Many schools, including U. City, opted to create an alternate season and decided that fall sports would be played in the spring.

As time went on, parents in certain districts looked for loopholes in order to allow their children to play. Districts such as Parkway and Rockwood, along with DeSmet and CBC played games in St. Charles.

“I have a unique situation where I live in St. Charles County but work in St. Louis County, so I have seen first hand how the different counties are handling things,” Kevin Stapleton-Cloud, head volleyball coach, said. “ It worries me. I do not believe we can end the pandemic soon enough until more people are wearing masks and abiding by the proper guidelines. St. Charles needs to get on St. Louis County’s bandwagon and start being more strict. But at the same time, I do not believe allowing kids to travel to St. Charles and play sports there is any better. If the students are not safe enough to go to school, I do not believe they should be playing sports either.”

Nonetheless, schools started conditioning for the spring season in August. Restrictions were also placed for these sessions, such as teams were not allowed to practice with balls. A mask mandate was placed on all athletes, which they are required to wear while sitting on the  bench. Athletes also have to stay socially distanced before and while practice is happening. 

“We try to sit socially distanced while we are waiting to show up,” Stapleton-Cloud said. “Once the girls start running they remove their masks, but coaches keep theirs on. We try to stay distanced while working out and if we use equipment, we try to wipe them down after one person is done with it.  At the end of practice, it’s the coaches job to wipe down any equipment that was used.” 

On Sept. 23, nine days after a protest outside his house where student athletes and parents had signs with slogans like “#letthemplay” and “Back to school Back to Sports,” Page allowed moderate contact sports including soccer, baseball, field hockey, softball, and volleyball to play and practice. Schools must have a plan to keep players and spectators safe. It appears that U. City will keep their original plan to do the alternate fall season during the spring. Senior Merrick Hoel is relieved that she won’t be running cross country until spring.  

“Overall, I think it is inconsiderate given the current circumstances of what’s happening in the world right now,” Hoel said. “Personally, I would love to play my sport but I think the health of myself and others is more important right now. Although part of me feels sorry for those athletes who needed this season to get their times up for various schools, it seems like cancelling the sports season is the best choice we have at controlling the pandemic and hopefully colleges will be understanding of the current situations.”  

Since Sept.23, coronavirus restrictions have changed drastically. On Oct. 5, it was reported by stltoday.com that St. Louis County was letting high frequency contact sports, like football, basketball, wrestling, and hockey practice and compete in full. Restrictions were placed on all sports.  The following four are some of the restrictions stated on the St Louis County Coronavirus webpage about high school sports. 

  • Plans MUST include acknowledgement that they will comply with DPH for contact tracing, including the method by which lists of all players, Spectators and others attending any practice or event will be maintained. 
  • Plans MUST include how spectators will be managed and limited and should follow the restrictions included for all other youth sports activities. Failure to comply with an approved plan, including controlling capacity and spectator limitations, that are reported by members of the public, may result in DPH’s revoking the approval of the plan. 
  • If possible, plans should be submitted by school district and not by individual schools.
  • Each school sponsored or non-school sponsored and affiliated sports teams MUST submit a proposed plan to DPH for approval in order to play in games and competitions with other teams from the St. Louis region.

In any event, it appears that winter sports will go on as scheduled. However, a final decision on tryouts has not yet been made. 

“The decision resides at Central Office in regard to the start date [for tryouts] for University City has not been made,” Matt Brooks, athletic director, said. “When the decision is made, all procedures related to winter sports will be released.”