Spring sports are underway for the 2021 season and for the first time in almost a year hopes are high for many of the athletes and coaches. Although a fog is still looming over Severn School and its sports programs, and has been for the past three seasons. That fog is Covid-19, the dreaded phrase that all of us have heard for months. It’s no wonder people are anxious to get back to normal and compete in sports again. However, as we begin the return to normal, we must remain cautious and mindful of the virus which still threatens us.
So, what goes into the decisions and precautions that are being taken to protect our athletes, coaches, and maybe spectators? I sat down this week with Severn’s Athletic Director, Mr. Julian Domenech, to learn more about the decision to go ahead and participate in the Spring 2021 season for lacrosse, track and field, baseball, sailing, and boys’ tennis.
Some of the first questions I asked were about decisions and factors that went into bringing sports back. Mr. Domenech mainly spoke on how Severn has been closely monitoring the Covid rates and their trajectory, while harking back to the lack of spring sports last year, which were abruptly cut short due to Covid lockdowns. As exciting as a return to the athletic field is for most of us, it is important to note that bringing back sports does not mean getting rid of masks. Masks will be a mainstay for the majority if not the entire season, which will be especially evident and enforced when traveling to other schools for competitions later in the year. Using individual water bottles and wearing masks on the sidelines will be a reality that participants will have to adjust to as the season begins. While the number of parents and spectators allowed at games and sporting events will be limited, they will also be expected to wear masks when sitting in the stands and congregating around sports events in order to support the safety standards necessary to keep everyone playing.
For sports that require travel away from campus during the week, such as track, sailing, and tennis, it is expected that the off-campus facilities will be opening up during or after Spring Break. Mr. Domenech seemed confident these sports would return to a somewhat normal schedule in that respect. Buses and transit to the off-campus locations are still being worked out. Player numbers for these spring sports are also increasing, according to Mr. Domenech, and we may see more athletes than last year. “I think in a few sports we’ve had an increase in numbers, probably because our student-athletes are ready to go and want to do something,” he said. It is a good sign that spring sports participation has strong interest from the students; however, Mr. Domenech mentioned that things will be slowly returning and people shouldn’t expect it to all come back right away. Once returning to five days a week, coaches and administrators will expect athletes to be attending their practices and games every day, though they will be more lenient towards athletes who aren’t attending school on those days.
Now for a question that is on many athlete’s and parent’s minds: If an athlete tests positive for Covid, will the whole team have to quarantine? “No,” says Mr. Domenech. “It will be handled on a strictly ‘case by case’ basis.” Whenever anybody tests positive, the Anne Arundel County Health Department is alerted and all the specifics are given to them. In return, the Health Department tells Severn who must quarantine and who does not have to, though this is subject to change, according to Mr. Domenech. He also notes that research and testing have shown that transmission rates during outside sports are incredibly low. “It is less than one percent of outdoor sports, depending on what [sport] you’re playing, will have transmission from kid to kid, and we feel pretty good and satisfied that we are going about this the right way,” he said.
As we eagerly anticipate the return of our beloved activities, including athletics, it’s important to recognize the sacrifices our coaches have made for us this season so we could compete again. Mr. Domenech explained how incredibly hard it has been for him to not see athletes competing on the fields and in the gym. Optimism is returning, however, and Mr. Domenech had this to say: “I’m ecstatic. I spent the whole weekend getting [everything] ready to go for all of our teams, and talking to our coaches.” This optimism seems to be contagious, because I have definitely experienced it, and I believe most of my teammates and fellow athletes have as well. I am excited to see you all out there on the fields this spring. GO ADMIRALS!!!