Does the return to hybrid equal a return to contact in sports?

How sports will operate with students coming back to campus

Second semester is just around the corner and students are anxiously awaiting the return to campus with hybrid learning, though with the recent movement to the purple tier there are no guarantees. But what’s happening in the sports world? Will seasons finally start? Will contact finally be initiated?

As of right now, Oak Park has been utilizing contactless practices and training sessions, some of which are led by the students. For example, the cross country team has been gathering in smaller groups organized by the captains while intermittently meeting with their coaches. Before practice begins, students are screened by taking their temperature and answering a quick survey about their health status.

However, even if Oak Park High School returns to school in-person — which would require a minimum of two weeks in the red tier — it does not mean that contact in sports would automatically ensue.

“We would only be permitted to do contact in sports if, specifically, the County Department of Health gives us the ‘okay’ to do that,” Athletic Director Tim Chevalier said. “We’ve been in the red tier now for the last four weeks and we have not been given the green light to have contact sports by the County … Even if we are able to return to school in the hybrid format (in the red tier), I don’t think we will have contact yet.”

It’s possible that a movement of Ventura County from the red tier to the orange tier would open up opportunities for contact. Nonetheless, recent spikes in Ventura County have resulted in a return to the purple tier, so that possibility is looking unlikely.

“I could potentially see where the County makes the decision that, even if you’re in the red tier, we may be able to, with the ability to test in greater capacities before events, have contact in our drills, practices, games, etc,” Chevalier said.

This hypothetical return to practice and contact would also elicit a screening process beforehand that is similar to the current one. In addition to taking one’s temperature and answering the questionnaire, students could expect the screening process to include some type of rapid test.

While permitting full-on contact in sports seems unlikely at the moment, certain sports may be able to return to normalcy if they can operate without students in close proximity to one another.

“Outdoor sports like baseball, softball, golf, tennis — those are outdoor sports where social distancing can be maintained,” Chevalier said. “I do think that if any sports can be played this year these would be the most likely. I’m much more optimistic about those sports happening than say, for example, indoor sports. Additionally, even though sports like soccer and lacrosse are outdoors, the contact nature of those sports make competitions unlikely under current restrictions.”

Chevalier is eager to get students back and playing, but, as of right now, everything is hypothetical, as there is no way of truly knowing what is going to happen as the state and county have yet to provide guidance for all high school sports related to a return to contact and games. Chevalier cannot make any guarantees for Oak Park; conditioning and practices for outdoor sports are assured even in the purple tier, but it is competitions that remain more unclear.

“All of the opportunities, and the fun, and the learning, and the spirit of competition has been taken. And scheduling, and doing all that, and putting together protocols from my athletic director perspective is something I’m happy to do if there’s any chance of athletes having a shot of returning during the school year,” Chevalier said.

The lack of sports this semester has been hard on most players. 

“I just want things to return to normal,” junior and varsity soccer player Emma Rale wrote to the Talon. “It’s been so long since I’ve truly played soccer with my teammates and I just miss everything about it.”