Athletic Support: ‘What Happens to the Team if a Player gets COVID-19?’

Dear Athletic Support: After reading last week’s column about the questions surrounding next football season, my mind started to wander. You hit on teams having trouble squeezing practices in and who might be allowed (or not allowed) to attend the games, but you left out what I consider to be the most important question — what happens if a player comes down with COVID-19? This could go for any sport, not just football. What would happen to that team? Would every player be quarantined for 14 days? I know you won’t be the one making this call, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. — Prone to Wonder

Dear Wonder: I honestly can’t imagine what would happen, or how a season could go on, if a player were to come down with COVID-19 next fall. This problem probes much deeper than sports, though.

It’s an issue we’ll all have to consider as the country begins to reopen, and we start coming out of the house again. What will happen if a student contracts the disease next fall? Will the whole school district shut down? Only time will tell.

In terms of sports, though, I can say this: athletics has taken a backseat during these unprecedented times, and rightfully so. Yes, I write a sports column. Yes, athletics have comprised the greater part of my life, but…

There is a time and place for everything.

And sadly, this is not the time for recreational activities, especially ones that involve large gatherings of people. Hopefully, we’ll all be in a different boat come September. Hopefully, things will start to feel “normal” again, but there’s just no way to know.

As a former coach, I can tell you there is nothing more important than the safety of our country’s student-athletes. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat unlike we’ve ever seen before. So if sports ramp up again in the fall of 2020, there is a good chance they’ll come to a grinding halt midway through the season.

Now, I do not think this will be the case everywhere. As of this writing, there has only been 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pope County, Arkansas. The numbers are similar for many other rural areas across the country. I’d be willing to bet places like my hometown will be able to move forward with high school athletic next fall.

This won’t be the case everywhere, though, and even the rural areas will have to be on high alert. All it will take is a scenario like you mentioned — one confirmed case on a team or in a school — and the whole thing could go kaput.

Which leads me to my final point: take time to really love up the kids who’ve been hardest hit by all this. Spring sports like baseball, softball, track and field — those kids already lost an entire season. The 2020 graduating class didn’t get to walk at graduation. They didn’t even get a prom.

So, please, when you see these young people around town, stop and let them know you’re thinking about them. Let them know you’re just as worried as they are about what the future holds. But most importantly, let them know we’re all in this thing together.

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