Staff editorial: Football poses risk, volleyball safe enough to play

Safety precautions must be followed as COVID-19 cases surge


Whitney Meierotto-Simon, former head coach of the girls’ volleyball team, strategizes with the rest of the group Nov. 8, 2019. The fall seasons of volleyball and football were both reinstated Sept. 21, 2020 despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sept. 21, the Minnesota State High School League decided to reinstate the fall seasons of volleyball and football. Considering the nature of the sport and surging COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, football is simply not worth the risk; however, volleyball appears safe enough to play with precautions.

According to the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee of the National Federation of State High School Associations, football is a higher risk sport. The essence of the game mandates “close, sustained contact” with little in terms of “protective barriers.” This creates the prime environment for the spread of COVID-19 from one player to another and possibly from one team and one city to another. 

Football players (and other Park athletes) will be required to wear masks when indoors and maintain proper social distancing when possible, according to athletic director Andy Ewald. In addition, coaches will continually check in with players to monitor for symptoms. Although the Echo Editorial Board applauds the team for these efforts, they simply are not enough. Whatever off-the-field safety precautions exist are moot when considering the close contact football requires on the field. Without radically reforming the way in which the game is played, a prospect not yet proposed, football poses too great a risk to allow this fall.

In contrast, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee considers volleyball a moderate risk sport. The game can be made even safer — into a “lower risk” activity — if the team properly cleans equipment and wears masks at all times. For this reason, the Echo Editorial Board believes it is reasonable to bring back the volleyball season this fall. It carries no more risk than other moderate to low-risk sports that have been playing for weeks without issue, including soccer, cross country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming.

When it comes to sports or really any in-person activity this fall, participants must recognize and accept the risk that comes with a gathering during the pandemic. Although moderate to low-risk sports should be allowed to play, the Echo Editorial Board urges participants to be aware of the threat of COVID-19. 

In all fall sports, it is essential that athletes maintain social distancing as much as possible and wear masks when in close contact. These activities are only safe when we make them safe. Ewald and each team’s coaches have adequately established safety guidelines, and now it is the responsibility of the players to follow through.

Athletes deserve to maintain at least some semblance of what life used to be like, but they must do so safely. The pandemic is not over yet — cases are surging, deaths are rising. Above all else, student-athletes must follow COVID-19 guidelines for the sake of our community.