Health and safety updates on 2021 high school spring sports season

Brooke Preputnick, Reporter

On Monday, March 8th, the official season began for all spring sports as well as when the first mandatory practice was held. It has been a long awaited season for many athletes after the tragic cancelation of all spring sports in the year 2020 due to the coronavirus. In hopes of a somewhat normal season this year, PIAA came out with a new update on March 4th of how spring sports will continue for the spring season this year.

As of now, teams are scheduled to start competitions on March 26th. However, the post season still remains undecided according to PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi. There are hopes that towards the end of the season, sports could take full-brackets for championships instead of just taking the champions likewise how they did in the fall and winter.

Attached to the PIAA’s update, there are 24 pages of guidelines designated for schools, coaches, athletes, officials, and parents of the listed recommendations going into spring sports. There are certain mandates that are recommended for all sports, but there are also specified requests for certain spring sports.

The masks mandate still remains outdoors for coaches, athletes, and spectators of all spring sports; however they can shed their mask if they are able to maintain a 6-ft distance from each other. This includes while actively engaged in workouts, competition, on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. Officials are required to follow the same rules as the athletes.

Here are a few of the listed mandates for specified spring sports stated by the PIAA:

  • The PIAA notes that there’s no evidence covid-19 can be transmitted by touching tennis balls, but recommended players should sanitize their hands and avoid touching their face.
  • Umpires are required to wear a face covering behind the plate. The PIAA discussed but rejected a suggestion to let umpires call balls and strikes from behind the pitcher.
  • If possible, track and field athletes should provide their own throwing implements and retrieve them after each throw. Shared implements, starting blocks and batons should be sanitized between each use. Likewise, vaulters should not share vaulting poles.
  • Races of 800 meters or longer are considered moderate risk activities, so the PIAA recommends they be “run in alleys or minimally one turn staggers.”
  • Relay runners may wear disposable gloves.
  • Lacrosse players are not required to wear a mask during competition since they already wear a helmet and mouth guard.

“Everybody is really committed to doing whatever we can to get a full season for those spring athletes that lost it last year,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. Although the expectations may seem harsh and difficult to follow, it is for the best of our safety and everyone is doing everything in their power so this spring season can happen.