Winter Sports and COVID


Kadon Tyler-Jones and Coby Hatcher

There are many unknowns and questions on how winter sports will go on here at Prep while dealing with the rising numbers of Covid-19. Everyone has a little hope to have winter sports, it brings the community together and gives hope that everything will be okay. 

Brotherhood is the heart and soul of the Prep community and one of the biggest bonding experiences is being a part of the Birdcage, a long lasting tradition. Having a limited number of students allowed at fall sports hasn’t been the same for both the student athletes performing and the student fans. This leads to the question: will there be students in attendance at winter sports? 

When speaking with basketball coach Mr. Josh Luedtke, wrestling coach Mr. Andrew Fisher, and swimming coach Mr. Tom Beck all said many similar things and have high hopes of having a season worthwhile. There are a lot of unknowns and uncertainties surrounding the seasons. 

The Nebraska School Activities Association came out with the rules and regulations that are needed to be followed at meets, and games:

“Participants are permitted, but not required to wear face coverings during competition. Coaches and non-active participants are required to wear face coverings at all times. Spectators are required to wear face coverings at all times while attending indoor events. High school requirements must be the same for all schools, officials, judges, and spectators.” 

The protocols for winter contests consist of “Restrict attendance/seating areas. Create separate points of entry for home and visitor teams/spectators. Provide no concession stands or separate/multiple concession stands for home and visitor spectators. Provide separate/multiple restrooms for home and visitor spectators. Communicate availability of locker room space for the opposing team and officials. Implement diligent and effective cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched objects and surfaces. Each event must be spaced out at least an hour in between events.”  

The coaches were asked, If it would be a normal season, said that the amount of spectators per player is the same as fall sports, 4, no student spectators.

While in a hybrid school schedule all winter sports will be able to continue to practice and play in all sporting events.

Fisher was asked some questions on how he felt about the upcoming wrestling season. “It should remain the same length, but teams during meets are restricted to 8 teams or less.” During the workouts and practice, athletes must social distance and you have to practice with one partner the whole season. Mats are cleaned twice a day by Fisher and his brother, Luke. As for the season, he says when athletes aren’t wrestling, masks must be on at all times, coaches and referees must always wear masks. At the end of the match the two wrestlers will not be allowed to shake hands, and the referee will no longer raise the winner’s arm in the air. 

The NSAA also says that weigh-ins must be done in an open area instead of a separate room like before. Temperature checks are done before every tournament and dual, and students are responsible for bringing their own food now. When he was asked about practicing during hybrid learning, Fisher said “if we go back to it, the team will continue to practice, one rule given to him by the school aside from the NSAA is to inform them if anything happens.” Some of his worries are if one person gets Covid-19, he’s afraid that the whole team will have to quarantine due to the close environment. He’s also a little worried about the fact that all events are held inside, so Covid is more likely to be contracted with air staying in the building.

The basketball team is looking to make another trip to the State tournament, where they have high hopes of finishing strong with a talented returning team. 

Senior guard Brenden Buckley was asked if the team has high hopes of playing this season and his  response was “we are very optimistic of having a season this year, with or without fans.” “This season means a lot to the seniors, not just the players, but the students who want to attend games and lead the famous bird cage.” 

Luedtke was also asked the protocols that him and his team follow to maintain being successful and healthy. He responded with: “The players will wear masks for the majority of the practice, but sometimes it’s not feasible to, we will do whatever it takes to continue to play.” During games, the players will not be required to wear masks while on the court unless they choose to, but coaches and players on the sideline are required to.

Luedtke said during the preseason workouts, these protocols were put in place: “Wearing masks on the court were optional, it was up to player discretion. Each workout group and skills group was kept the same throughout every workout.” Luedtke also talked with his players about the Importance of wearing masks on the weekend around friends and people they don’t know. 

Luedtke said the reason for this was “we all want to play and we have to make sacrifices for that to happen. We have to do this together. The team has trained for five to six days a week since late June in preparation for the upcoming season, they don’t want that to go to waste.”

When senior Brenden Buckley was asked what the team felt about not playing with fans, and his response was: “We feed off the energy of our birdcage, and it really helped us in some crucial games last year, and I think we are better than we were last year. We have a real shot at winning a title this year, but we can’t let that define us and use it as an excuse. It will be weird at first but I’m sure we will adapt like we have had to since last season.” 

Brenden was asked if the team had any concerns about the season regarding Covid-19, his answer was: “I don’t see the season getting canceled, now we know more about the virus and we might have more restrictions but I think we will have a season for sure.” 

Swimming coach Tom Beck is on track to win his fifteenth state championship, and when asked if the season will be a normal length he was ecstatic to say that “the plan is to have a full length season as of right now. But that could change at any moment as all of us know.” 

When Coach Beck was asked what protocols that have to be followed during workouts right now he said: “ The student-athletes are doing their own club swimming (local USA Swimming teams) at the time.  I do know that Covid policies are in place at the local clubs.  Policies such as temperature taking upon entering practice, mask-wearing whenever not in the pool, limited use of locker rooms, and keeping the swimmers at least 6 feet apart when at all possible, even in the pool.”  

Coach Beck described this season as “worrisome” with having to deal with the normal influenza season and now COVID 19. 

Mr. Beck was also asked how he thinks his team will react to not having little to no spectators, and his response was: “I think it will definitely play a factor, but we have to adapt and overcome like we have done so many times already this year, I believe we can do it.”