Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in-person sports are on their way back. On Jan. 29, MCPS released its “Return to R.A.I.S.E. Second Semester Plan,” outlining the plan for second-semester athletics in the county. The fall season is set to occur between Feb. 13 and April 17, with Feb. 27 being the start date for in-person activities.
The in-person season will be optional for both coaches and athletes. Exactly which programs offered will be dependent on the selection of coaches, as well as student-athlete interest.
MCPS is doing everything it can to encourage safety.
“All in-person programming and activities will occur in alignment with guidelines and protocol developed by the COVID-19 Task Force for MCPS Athletics,” a letter sent out by the MCPS athletics department states.
During the season, after athletes are dropped off, they will report to their trainer to fill out a health assessment. Once they are cleared, they will report to pre-planned pods, where each athlete will get their own designated space. Athletes are required to bring their own mask, towel, water bottle and sanitizer to keep in their designated space.
After practice, coaches will use MCPS-approved products and procedures upon which they’ve been trained, to keep each area clean. Building service workers will also be cleaning facilities and looking at air conditioning and ventilation to ensure that the facilities are safe and supportive of a healthful environment.
“I think as long as everyone follows the FDA [sic] guidelines we should be fine,” Thomas S. Wootton High School sophomore and JV soccer player, Hope Safai said. “We’re outside and [everyone] will be wearing masks, so it’s less of a risk than if we were inside. I’m just going to try to stay as safe as possible.”
Due to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s rule, 20 days of practice must occur before athletic competition starts. This leaves March 19 as the first possible day for competition to begin. It is unknown whether competitions will actually begin on that day, or even if competitions will be held at all, but those details should be released soon.
“I’m looking forward to trying to get back into competitions and meets,” Damascus High School junior and cross-country runner Georgia Craca said. “I really just want to get back into the full swing of cross-country, and try to get back to normal.”
Another outdoor sports season will occur in the spring, starting April 17, and will go to June 19. The same protocols as the fall sports season will be followed. The exact dates of the winter season are still unknown but will be released as soon as possible.
As sporting activities transition indoors, the same safety procedures used in outdoor sports will apply. All of the indoor practice spaces will be safe, ventilated facilities, cleaned by MCPS staff every day.
Some athletes are used to following similar safety procedures in club sports, if they are participating in club sports outside of school.
“Basically, on one court only ten people including coaches, assistants and players are allowed at once,” Northwest High School sophomore Maria Filippova, who plays on her school’s JV volleyball team and on a club team, said. “[There are] no spectators [allowed], and the same goes for tournaments. We wear masks of course, and when we drink we have to be socially distant.”
Many athletes have been working hard to stay involved with their sports during the off-season. MCPS held virtual seasons for fall, winter and spring sports during the first semester. During the season, specifications such as when teams would meet were left up to the coaches.
Aside from the team-specific meetings, MCPS held county-wide guest speaker meetings throughout the week. Many of these speakers gave presentations with the intention of motivating the athletes. These speakers also held a question and answer session after their presentation, where both athletes and coaches were given the opportunity to ask any further questions.
“We were excited to see how many students were engaged, and the dedication of our coaches,” Director of Systemwide Athletics Jeffrey K. Sullivan said in regards to the virtual season.
Some athletes found other ways to stay involved with their sports during the off-season, too.
“Another football player and I, Carter Taggart, started a football clinic called Peewee Playmakers, where every Friday we teach football to a group of six little kids,” Quince Orchard High School senior and Varsity football player Alex Schrier said. “It’s like football therapy for me in a way. Normally, I would be playing in a football game on Friday night, but this way I get to teach football to little kids.”
Still, most high school athletes are ready for their sports to resume.
“I think I can speak for every single person who’s played a high school sport when I say that everyone is excited to go back,” Filippova said.