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Unmasked: Part 4 – The sports community 

The Tryon Daily Bulletin is featuring a seven-part series on the impact of Covid-19 and government restrictions in the Foothills. This series of articles will focus greatly on the opinions of small business owners, local families, churches, health care facilities, schools, etc., and whether they believe government restrictions had a harsher impact than the pandemic itself due to unintended consequences. Its intent is to allow readers to determine if the measures taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 has taken a greater toll on our community than the virus itself.

Head Football Coach at Landrum High School Jason Farmer says that despite the restrictions in sports activities, the JV and Varsity programs grew to the second-largest teams since he came to LHS in 2014.

Farmer says they were fortunate to be in South Carolina because they had only an abbreviated season, playing a total of six games. Regarding the team’s safety and health, he said, “I think it was necessary to protect our kids and our coaches. But our administration at Landrum High School and Spartanburg School District One provided for us an opportunity to keep our players and coaches safe while competing at the same time.”

Farmer says that early in the summer of 2020, when schools were shutting down and sports came to a halt, the unpredictable circumstances was something he thinks affected the players and coaches. Despite the lack of practices, he says he didn’t notice a difference in the team’s playing abilities.  

“Certainly, we were not in normal shape, but we have great participation from our players,” Farmer says.

Concerning the idea that the measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 taking a greater toll on sports than the virus itself, Farmer believes otherwise, saying, “We were all in uncharted territories, and I am thankful for the leadership in our school district that provided these guidelines to keep us safe.”

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website, the chances of becoming infected with the Covid-19 virus is relatively low during team sports practice.

National Health Statistics Reports states by using results from 2011-2014 medical reports that an estimate of 8.6 million sports- and recreation-related injury take place annually.

The report goes on share that with an age-adjusted rate of 34.1 males per 1,000 population are estimated to be physically injured in sports, also saying that 50% of the sports- and recreation-related injury episodes resulted in treatment at a doctor’s office or other health clinic, without hospitalization or emergency visits.

These statistics of injuries due to physical activities show that nearly 9 million people between the ages of 5-24 years of age accounted for more than half of those injuries, resulting in close to 6 million student-aged people being injured during sports and recreations.  

With such large numbers among the previously stated statistics, some are left wondering if student athletes were concerned by the virus since they have already accepted their potential fate of being physically injured despite the high rates.  

At the risk of being injured due to sports, athletes are required to wear protective gear, leaving some athletes wondering why they couldn’t play in competitions during Covid-19 while wearing protective gear and taking preventative measures to keep the virus from harming them. Moreover, students wonder why they must wear protective gear for risk of being injured, but they couldn’t simply wear protective gear during the shutdown to keep the virus form infecting them.  

Director of LifeSprings Basketball League at First Baptist Greenville Randy Atkins says that many of the athletes wear masks while playing basketball to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, though Atkins says, “I believe it is not healthy for them to be playing such an active sport as basketball while wearing a mask.  The oxygen levels cannot be adequate with all that exertion.”

Atkins believes that not participating in sports due to Covid-19 was not necessary since the virus has little effect on young people. However, his league of 40 teams (over 325 participants) took measures such as reducing the number of fans per player and sanitization. Atkins’ team remained the only league in the Foothills area; all others canceled their leagues.

He says, “I don’t understand why the outdoor sports were canceled.”

However, Bruce Ollis, Head Football Coach and teacher of Physical Education at Polk County High School, believes that not participating in sports during the Covid-19 crisis was certainly the appropriate call, stating, “I think it helped stop the spread of the virus.” 

Ollis says that they had to delay their gratification in sports as a result to the restrictions, but currently playing has issued no problems. Now, he says, “[It] has enabled numbers of cases to decrease substantially in Polk County.”

As a response to the “new normal” sports season, he says, “We told our players during the down time that the teams who are able to adapt to the new protocols associated with Covid-19 would be the teams that would be successful.”  

He claims that he and his team have adapted well to the new protocols and restrictions, believing that their confidence is what enabled the PCHS football team to start off well this season.

The PCHS football team suffered from the virus, Ollis says, mostly during the off season.

Considering whether the measures taken to prevent Covid-19 did more harm to the sports community than the virus itself, Ollis believes it did not, saying he always felt that a deadly virus must be taken very seriously.  

“Student/athlete safety is our first charge as teachers as coaches,” he says.

The overall belief of Football Coach at PCHS Bruce Ollis is that the virus did more harm than the repercussions of the measures taken to prevent it, and Football Coach at LHS Jason Farmer’s beliefs are in agreeance.  Director of LifeSprings Basketball League Randy Atkins, however, believes otherwise, deeming facemasks dangerous for athletes and their oxygen intake.

The following three articles in the Covid-19 Unmasked series will continue to share the subjective opinions of individuals in the community. In the April 21 edition of Bulletin will feature the various perspectives and statistics of Covid-19 from local churches.

By Macy Cochran