Return to in-person athletics

Graphic by Yiting Zhang of Walter Johnson High School.

In March of 2020, schools across the state of Maryland shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a halt on all high school sports. Club teams eventually resumed activity after the summer, but high school sports did not continue until the spring of 2021, bringing about a modified version of spring season sports. 

This fall, high school sports were brought back to life. Fans were back on the bleachers in the crowds of football and soccer games, and athletes were back to their regular practice schedules representing their schools. 

For many freshman and sophomores trying out for their respective sport, this past season was their first go-round of competing on the high school level, and a numerous amount would play for their junior varsity and/or varsity teams. 

The vast majority of these underclassmen felt the drastic difference of a six-practice week, a sharp contrast from  their past club teams. This has had an impact on some of these student-athletes’ grades and the amount of time they have to do school work. When asked about the impact of fall sports on keeping up with school-work, sophomore varsity soccer player Ahmed Guggsa said that having late practices and games have had a huge impact on his academic performance, and ability to get work done. 

“Some nights, I would get home from a game at 8pm, having not started on any of my work,” Guggsa said. 

Although, when asked about the effect that it has on his productivity, Ahmed said that he felt more productive, knowing he had to get work done to give himself enough time to sleep. 

Aside from the difficult aspects that come with participating in high school sports, they are also a great source of creating new friendships and having fun. Many people tried out for a new sport that they had never played before. 

Although their season didn’t result in many wins, Walter Johnson sophomore and junior varsity football player Wills Baker said that playing football with the team was the most fun he “had ever had playing sports.”

It’s clear that the social interaction component of sports was greatly missed for athletes and fans during the pandemic, and is something that everyone appreciated upon the return of a sports season. 

As far as differences go to previous school years, school sporting events have looked relatively similar to past years, aside from the on-and-off mask mandates. However, there has been a recent increase in violence across the county, including sporting events. Incidents involving Walter Johnson and Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School at a football game, and Seneca Valley at a game of their own are just a few that headline a unique start to the school year. 

As we move into the winter, keep an eye out for the precautions that MCPS takes in regards to the mask mandates moving to indoor events.

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