Scheduling Struggles Amongst COVID-19 Concerns


Laurel Padilla, Reporter

The united goal to stay safe while competing has been immersed into the Heights community this fall. Everything has been impacted by COVID-19, but fortunately, high school fall athletics is still underway. With limited spectators, masks, social distancing, and constant changes, athletics took on a brand new meaning this season. Every aspect of planning and playing fall sports has changed this year. 

“The amount of schedule changes this year has been insane. I have probably averaged at least 5-8 schedule changes a week for various sports,” Cody Whitney, head athletic director, said. “That has led to some teams playing the same schools multiple times, losing games that are annual traditions, and in some cases seeing a totally different schedule than was planned a year ago.”

The Kansas State High School Activities Association voted to start fall sports as planned on July 28. This allowed fall sports to start preparing on August 17 as a team. Although some districts and counties opted out of competition this fall, Shawnee County was not one of them. This created the challenge of finding new competition for every week and scheduling. 

“It has been really challenging to fill the holes that are left in schedules from schools that are not playing due to either county or local school district guidelines,” Whitney said. “We are fortunate that all of our league schools are playing.”

With game times and schedules changing daily, transportation to and from events presents itself as another challenge. To follow social distancing guidelines, school busses cannot be filled to their max capacity. 

“Transportation is doing their absolute best to get our kids to school, and to their competitions, but with a driver shortage and capacity guidelines on our busses, that has been a huge challenge,” Whitney said. “Our transportation department has worked so hard, and I am so grateful that they have been so flexible with schedule changes.” 

To lower numbers at games and events, each athlete is provided with two or so spectator passes. Limiting friends, fans, and family has impacted the spirit and hyped experience erience of each sport. 

“We have been fortunate enough to be able to have fans at every single game. Yes it is limited, but it has been great to have the fans we have and to come and support us when they can,” Samantha McHenry, head volleyball coach, said. “It is hard when you want more family members and friends at the games and they can’t be there. We miss the students at our games as well.” 

Fall athletics are still happening, but without the normal number of fans at each game, competitions feel different. 

“I feel like there is a little anxiety over the uncertainty of the games being played,” Stephen Loy, head boys soccer coach, said. “We really miss having the student body at our games cheering.”

The Heights community has come together for the common goal of safety and competition this fall. Following guidelines can impact how spring sports will be handled and evaluated. 

“Ultimately my goal is to get you, and the rest of our kids out, and doing what they love for as long as they can,” Whitney said. “So everything I am doing is to that end – trying to get people to work together, follow county guidelines, and take the steps necessary to be able to keep playing, running, debating, cheering, etc.” 

To follow safety guidelines normal team bonding, traditions, and celebrations all had to get a bit more creative this fall season. Team numbers, dinners, and interactions have been impacted. 

“We had some runners worried about COVID who did not come out. I would also say a big change was that the runners do not get together outside practice,” Andrew Bassett, head cross country coach, said. “Thursday pasta parties are a big part of our program’s team building. We could not safely do that this year.” 

Practices and game days now involve face masks and safety measures. Teams have come together as one to follow rules and guidelines. 

Jack Arnold

“The big difference is that before practice we can’t be in a room and watch film, and before we walk on the field we get our temperature checked and always wear a mask,” Ziwaun White, senior football player, said.

Every fall sport has been challenged with changes to protect the safety of athletes and others there. 

“There are usually not as many people at cross country meets anyways but there are less than usual and it takes away that push of motivation that they give you,” Hayden Henderson, senior cross country runner, said. 

Senior athletes always face their last competition in high school. During this fall season though, there has been fear of the last competition happening without even knowing it. This has changed many senior team captains’ mindsets on practices and games. 

“From the beginning, I’ve been taking tennis more seriously because I’m trying to make every moment count because you never know when things will completely drop,” Madisyn Landry, senior tennis player, said. “Because of that, I feel I’ve definitely improved my hits and positioning of the ball.” 

With the uncertainty of the fall season, spring sports are still up in the air facing challenges. Class of 2021 is doing their best to make the most out of their senior year. 

“We’ve just been treating every meet as our last, by giving it your all while you’re out on the course,” Henderson said. “I run track and field in the spring and I hope we can have a normal season without having to worry about it being canceled for any second.”

Although the Heights community has come together to make this season possible, no one was prepared for the heartache or the major challenges. 

“I hope that no one else has to go through what the Class of 2021 is facing,” Amanda Lauderback, senior cheerleader, said. “It’s painful, and I think that when it comes to saying good-bye to Shawnee Heights, we’ll all look back and wish we could have just a few moments of normality.”