Winter Sports Take on a New Look in 2020

Winter Sports Take on a New Look in 2020

By Luke West Poley

It’s no secret that sports have looked different in 2020. From the cancellations in the spring, to the professional sports “bubbles” of summer, to the limited entry in the fall, 2020 has been an interesting year filled with new experiences for fans of sports at all levels. 

Fall sports were a challenge for the OHSAA. From setting statewide regulations to tracking cases, the Covid-19 pandemic created an issue entirely new in sport that we hadn’t seen in our lifetime. The OHSAA was criticized in mid summer for not coming up with a plan for fall sports as quickly as some other associations around the country had. This resulted in the firing of longtime director, Jerry Snodgrass. But after plans were set in place, regulations were fairly simple. The fall season, with most sports being outdoors, had a much smaller risk of transmission of Coronavirus. This meant that regulations were put in place, but were not as strict as some we may see. Admission was restricted to families of participants and game workers, and food was sold in sealed packages. While different than normal, this would pale in comparison to what is needed for the winter season.

As sports moved indoors, this presented new challenges. Cases would inevitably go up and restrictions would need to be harsh. The new plan for winter sports included a reduction of family members allowed into events to just 1 per participant, and more social distancing being suggested. But, despite this, cases went up as expected. Across the state, we are seeing more cancellations than we have ever seen before. Ice hockey is one of the sports that has been hit really hard. Nearly every conference across the state has many teams that have already postponed operations, and being just two weeks into the season, this is something we can continue to expect. After preseason games, opening night around the state saw significantly fewer games than we expected, including an absence of the Talawanda Brave, who are shut down until December 2nd. 

What is often overlooked in high school sports about these restrictions is the impact on the athletes themselves. When asked about the effect restrictions will have on a usually crowded pool during swim meets, senior swimmer Ben Crowder was disappointed, but remained optimistic. “It’s going to be a lot different, it’ll be quieter and the energy won’t feel as high. But when we’re at a meet we just have to block everything out and race.” Crowder was confident his team would still be able to perform in an empty natatorium. “We’re going into this season knowing it’s gonna feel different, but we are all ready to swim fast, win, and bring home that 15th straight SWOC title.” 

Despite the precautions, many fans of winter high school sports are satisfied that the sports are able to be back in such a trying time. Hockey season is underway, with the Brave having already opened up with games in the past few weeks. Basketball will begin next week, with the girls team opening their year at Badin next Monday, November 30, and the boys opening up the night after, Tuesday the first versus Anderson. The swim team, wrestling, and bowling teams are also finalizing schedules, with the Brave beginning those in the next few weeks.