EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) — A look at the basketball court at Evans High school, and one may not know a pandemic is happening. Players aren’t wearing masks while they play. But a look at the bleachers, and the crowd is noticeably different. Groups are sitting six feet a part, and the usually sold out gymnasium is no where near full.
Like school districts around the country, Columbia County didn’t know if it could host extra-curricular activities, including sports, this year. With low case numbers and health guidelines in place, officials decided the game must go on.
“I think the kids need it,” Kevin Kenny, Evans High School’s athletic director, said. “A lot of these kids have played sports their whole life.”
Basketball poses unique challenges for schools in the age of COVID-19. It’s played indoors and is a contact sport, with players getting close to block a shot or guard each other. Players don’t wear face masks on the court, but they put them on in the locker room. If they’re feeling sick, they’re urged to stay home.
“I think we’ll be in pretty good shape with the protocols and safeguards that we’re doing. I think we’re doing a pretty good job with it.”
Schools are also limiting how many people are allowed in gymnasiums during games. Columbia County is only allowing its gyms to be 33 percent full.
These guidelines didn’t stop students from trying out for the team at Evans High School this year. Kenny says more people tried out for the varsity team this year than in 2019.
When sports were paused in the Spring, many players lost an outlet and opportunity to socialize with friends, leading some to become sad or depressed. With sports back on, Columbia County Associate Superintendent Penny Jackson said it gives kids some hope during an uncertain time.
“It keeps our kids healthy, both mentally and physically.”