Fall sports resume with COVID-19 safety measures


This photo was taken in fall of 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Nick Terenzi.

Collin Kilpatrick, Sports Editor

The world of Falcon athletics looks different this fall, as athletes will be gearing up with masks and hand sanitizer this season. 

Due to the current COVID 19 situation restrictions on athletics have been put in place, in order to help keep athletes and their families safe. 

“We have to wear masks, use hand sanitizer constantly, wipe down all the balls, and stay six feet apart at all times,” Senior volleyball player Riley Barber said.

These new restrictions have given significant challenges to athletes, as they try to navigate practicing while being six feet apart, along with having to wear masks while practicing and playing.

“It’s definitely hard,” Senior football player Andrew Hebekueser said. “But it’s just something we have to deal with, and our coach has done a great job adjusting practice, to make it fit better with the current situation”

Football was originally pushed to the spring by the MHSAA, as they felt that the sport posed a higher risk of spreading COVID 19 due to the contact involved. However the decision was reversed in early September, and football was given the full green light to go forward with playing.

“I’m really happy the decision was made to have a football season,” Hebekueser said. “After they had pushed it to the spring I was disappointed that I might not be able to have a true senior football season, but I was glad to hear they made the right decision in the end.”

Football along with the other fall sports are facing shortened, and adjusted playing seasons as well, to adapt to the situation.

“Our season has been adjusted this year, in that no more than four teams can get together at one time to play,” Head tennis coach Jerry Murphy said. “This has eliminated our league tournament, and it appeared that our state tournament was not going to be played. Within the last week a proposal was accepted to hold the state tournament in a modified form.”

Along with the shortened playing season limited fans will be in attendance of all athletic events, which gives a new challenge to the athletes.

“It’s gonna be weird not having fans there on Friday nights,” Hebekueser said. “The fans play a big part in the games, and add a ton to the playing atmosphere, so not having them is going to be really different.”

While these new changes may seem sudden, a lot of time and diligence was put into deciding what would be the right way to go forward with Rochester athletics.

“The district athletic directors have been meeting weekly since early June. We’ve worked closely with our principals, and the superintendent’s office throughout the return to athletics phase,” Athletic Director Dean Allen said. “There has been a mountain of info to digest from the Governor’s office, MHSAA, CDC, and local health department. It’s been a collaborative effort, we’re blessed to work with great administrators in our district.”

Mr. Allen had positive words to say about the athletes of Rochester High, in their handling of this tough situation.

“Our athletes have done a great job following the protocols put in place,” Mr. Allen said. “They’re doing everything we’ve asked, I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve handled themselves.”

While the restrictions have been hard on athletes, there have been some positives to come from teams having to make adjustments.

“We have had to learn to communicate better due to the masks covering our mouths,” Barber said.

Across all athletics the mentality is consistent, that they are willing to work with the protocols and restrictions, as long as it means they get to have their seasons.

“The changes are hard,” Barber said. “But at least we have a season.”