Should WCHS athletes stay home?
The Warren County School Board made the decision to send students back to the classroom Tuesday night. It may be time for Warren County High School coaches to send their players home.
With COVID-19 still wrecking lives – and schedules – on a daily basis, it is still time to take every precaution when it comes to moving toward normalcy. Sports were a great way for people to get back some semblance of a regular schedule, but that could be erased in an instant with WCHS opening its doors four days a week to its student body.
It has been on the minds of every local coach all fall. They know no matter how disciplined their athletes are in taking every precaution to avoid the pandemic, all it takes is one person to walk into a classroom and test positive later to start the quarantine process. It’s been manageable during the current hybrid schedule where students only attend two days and are in smaller classroom settings, but neither of those things will be happening on Oct. 12 now that the school board has ruled to go back to a more traditional schedule.
The two words no coach has wanted to hear in the last few months are ‘contact tracing.’ Currently, an athlete – even if they were perfectly healthy – would be forced off the field for two weeks if it was found they were exposed to a coronavirus case at the high school. Volunteer fans already know how much chaos contact tracing can cause – UT had over 40 players missing from practice in the last 10 days just because the players were exposed in the classroom.
The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers have been fortunate thus far. None of the WCHS football, girls soccer or volleyball teams have missed games for COVID-19 – at least not because of problems locally. Soddy Daisy – a district rival in soccer and volleyball – has had all kinds of issues, even prompting the Lady Trojans to cancel Wednesday’s volleyball game at Charlie Dalton Gym (one which had already been rescheduled once).
Neighboring White County shut down its first football game and many, many more teams have found out how hard it is to play once a player is exposed. All it takes is one person to put Pioneer and Lady Pioneer sports in peril.
It would be devastating to see a 5-0 football season stalled because an infected student walked into a classroom which had many Pioneers in attendance. Nobody wants to see CJ Taylor sidelined for two weeks because he was diligently doing classwork beside somebody who later tested positive.
The Pioneers only traveled 35 players to Blackman last Friday. They can’t afford to lose any players to contact tracing – something coach Matt Turner knows and has worked to alleviate by doing everything in his power to keep his players separated in the locker rooms, on the field and in the classrooms.
Separation was easier when there were hundreds of kids at Warren County High School every other day. It may be impossible when thousands are there four days a week.
Because of that, it would be no shock if many of the WCHS coaches encouraged their kids to opt into the VIP program being offered. When the school board made the decision to send kids back to school Oct. 12, they also chose to open up the VIP registration again, a program which would give student-athletes the ability to learn from home.
Isolating at home during the day would be the easiest way to ensure the Pioneer and Lady Pioneer players can take care of academic business and – as Turner would say – control what they can control.
Sports will never be more important than the health and safety of students. Academics should always come first too. Fortunately, the VIP program gives student-athletes the ability to continue their studies, stay healthy and keep sports rolling as well.
And really, everybody needs sports.
Think about how much different Taylor’s future may look if the Pioneers wouldn’t have been able to get back on the field this year. Without a season, Taylor probably wouldn’t have caught the eye of so many colleges which could change his life forever.
It’s the same for many other Pioneers who are looking for football to pay for some – or all – of their higher education in the future. They needed this season to be played – and need it to be finished too.
Every option should be explored to make sure the Pioneers can continue their quest toward history and the Lady Pioneer teams can compete for district titles. To do that, it may take isolating athletes every moment they are not with their teams.
Everybody can make their own decision, but it definitely feels like the VIP program may be best for our athletic MVPs.