With fewer restrictions, fall sports return in full swing

Sophomore+Ella+Cohen-Richie+sets+the+ball+during+a+varsity+game+against+Lake+Forest+Academy+on+Sept.+14.++

Chloe Ma

Sophomore Ella Cohen-Richie sets the ball during a varsity game against Lake Forest Academy on Sept. 14.

Louis Auxenfans, Reporter

After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the 2020-21 sports season, giving some teams a shorter season without supporters and eliminating the season for others, U-High athletic teams are returning this fall to spectator attendance and fewer restrictions around masking. 

The main change for the season is the lifting of the mask requirement for outdoor practices and games for boys soccer, cross country, girls tennis and sailing. However, all team transportation and indoor sports — volleyball and swimming and diving — still require athletes to wear a mask. 

According to Athletics Director David Ribbens, the school nurses are contract tracing, and whenever there is a positive test on the team, members are notified of the circumstance and the athlete must quarantine.

Spectator attendance for games is no longer limited. 

U-High teams follow the COVID-19 safety guidelines of the Illinois High School Association, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and University of Chicago, according to Mr. Ribbens. 

 Mr. Ribbens said he believed the new policies have been managed well so far. 

“I mean we’re in the end of the fifth week of our high school season already and it’s over 225 kids playing ball sports with high school,” Mr. Ribbens said. “A lot of them obviously are outside, which makes the transmission a whole lot less likely.” 

Joshua Potter, boys soccer head coach, felt comfortable with the mask requirement changes. 

“I feel confident if the university feels confident,” Mr. Potter said. “If our administration puts something forward, I want to support that and I want to go by those guidelines.” 

“Last year it was much more difficult to run with the mask on because we had to supposedly keep a mask on, while we were on campus at the university, and then take it off.”

— Zachary Gin

Zachary Gin, boys cross country team captain, is also satisfied with the changes. 

“Last year it was much more difficult to run with the mask on because we had to supposedly keep a mask on, while we were on campus at the university, and then take it off,” Zachary said. “It’s much nicer to be able to run outdoors without a mask.”

Yet some restrictions have still continued into the new season. For example, overnight hotel stays for meets are still not approved. This led to cross country runners waking up as early as 4 a.m. Sept. 11 to catch a team bus for a 9 a.m. competition in Peoria. Mr. Ribbens said future overnight stays are up for re-evaluation on a case-by-case basis.

Zoe Morton, a girls swimming team co-captain, has adjusted to the changes like wearing a mask while on the pool deck. 

“I think I’ve gotten used to it because I’ve been swimming for like a year now in the pandemic, so I just don’t notice it,” Zoe said. 

The loosening of restrictions has helped increase athlete enrollments this season, with particularly large numbers on the golf team — 19 boys and 9 girls.

“I think that’s kind of a pent-up demand,” Mr. Ribbens said. “I think that there’s a lot of kids that are very interested in doing that participation, and that becomes an important piece of their education.”