Club Sports Put Safety First

by Victoria Martinez ’23

At a time when MCPS schools are doing virtual learning and there are no in-person high school sports, club/travel teams have taken on even more significance for many student-athletes. However, with sports categorized as a low, medium, and high risk, these athletes have to decide how comfortable they feel playing sports with the current safety protocols.  

“I think that lacrosse tournament organizers have been very good about striking a balance between safety and play. In my opinion, they have hit the happy medium,” said senior Jefferson Rice, who plays for the travel lacrosse team MDX-R. 

According to the “Montgomery County Government: Covid-19 Information Portal,” low risk entails sports that can be done with social distancing, or individually, with either no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean equipment between use by participants. They include running, golf, and dive. Medium risk consists of team sports that involve close, sustained or intermittent contact, with protective equipment in place, such as soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse. Lastly, sports that are considered at high risk are, “Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants as defined by [the National Federation of State High School Associations] Guidance for opening high school athletics and activities.” This category includes basketball, football and wrestling. 

Although it is a baseline safety measure for athletes to wear masks, and socially distance while not in play, some coaches are going above and beyond these guidelines to ensure the safety of their players. 

“Now, even though our players are allowed to have contact on the field and many do not wear masks during play, we as a coaching staff are vigilant about requiring masks to and from training, ensuring social distance when play is not occurring, and requiring players to bring their own equipment to prevent sharing – this includes training pinnies and water,” said Nadir Moumen, the executive director of the soccer club Total Futbol, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. “We also ask players to keep their coach informed about any travel or family concerns to keep track of who is and isn’t allowed to attend training.”  

Amira Walcott, the coach of the MSC Academy Silver Team for Total Futbol, explained that coaches are very conscientious about safety protocols.“At practice and games, I make sure to regularly remind players of the mask regulations, both club and county-wide,” said Walcott “I also clean my equipment regularly after practices, carry hand sanitizer to practices and games, set down stations for players to put their equipment socially distanced, take attendance for contact tracing purposes, and encourage/require open communication between players and administration about any questionable health changes.” 

Due to the additional efforts being made by club coaches like Walcott and Moumen, and tournament organizers who have created the new rules on-and-off of the field of play, many student-athletes say that they feel satisfied with the current safety measures set in place.

“[We’re] only allowed to take [our masks] off when doing a really strenuous activity, such as scrimmaging or conditioning,” said senior Ashley Button, who plays field hockey for the club team the Washington Wolves. 

Until school sports are able to resume, club teams intend to provide an excellent opportunity for student-athletes to continue playing their sports safely.