Director Lance Himes – ODH
OHIO High School Athletic Association
To all interested parties regarding the sport of cross-country and COVID mandates:
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of watching my 2 children compete in a cross-country meet. They were thrilled to be able to compete! It was an absolutely beautiful weekend! The place of attendance provided a tremendous amount of open, green space for spectators to easily socially distance. There were acres upon acres of a wide open, lush countryside; a magnificent landscape from which I could view my children as they participated. Thank you for allowing these students to have a season. However, I feel that our school, as well as many other schools, are over-reaching and over-extending a couple of the Health Order recommendations; to the extent I feel such strict requirements may not be in the best overall health interest for athletes.
In this letter I would like to share my concerns regarding the mask requirements for athletes, especially those competing outside. But also, for those who are using a weight room indoors. In addition, I would also like address mask requirements spectators observing outdoor sports such as cross country, golf, soccer etc. where it is extremely easy to socially distance.
I was deeply, deeply disturbed watching my children, who could very easily socially distance in the venue they were competing this past Saturday, wear masks while warming up for their cross-country meet. The athletes could effortlessly keep at least 10 feet away from each other while doing their warm-ups, yet they all were required to wear masks or they would have to leave. I am so sorry, I know everyone is on edge and fearful of the COVID-19, but wearing a mask while working out, be it warming up, cooling down, competing, or even while lifting weights I feel is not in the best health interest of my children, or any child. I have read reports of middle school children dying while wearing masks during P.E. class. As a mother of children (children who would do anything the government tells them to in order to participate in a sport – even if it’s harmful to them) – I am deeply, deeply, disturbed by both the news of these deaths, and the masking requirements for athletes.
At Cross-Country Meets
In a recent meet, with only one (1) other middle school, it is stated that “Athletes should wear masks to the starting line and can place them around their wrist just prior to their race beginning.” So, the athletes are to run the race, exerting themselves, giving all they can as they pace themselves, sprint to the finish line, with a mask around their wrist. I am so sorry, but did anyone think that through?
What if the mask falls off while racing? Should the athlete stop racing, stoop down, pick up the now dirty possibly muddy mask, place it back on his wrist and continue the race? How is wearing a mask around their wrists going impact their mental game if they are worried about losing it while competing? And finally, if they are required to put it on immediately after running, it will most likely be wet with sweat and perhaps even dirty if it fell off while running. Is this procedure in the best health interest of these children to place a dripping wet, sweaty, possibly dirty mask over their face immediately after they sprint to the finish line and are winded, breathing deeply, recovering from a 2 mile or 5k run?
With all due respect, I don’t believe it is in the best health interest of any child to place a dirty, wet, sweaty mask over their face. Can you please explain why you feel this is the best, healthiest, way for these children to compete? Especially since the COVID-19 virus does not have a significant impact on children in this age group?
In the Weight Room
Secondly, I am also concerned that children in our school district, Granville Exempted Village School District, are required to wear masks while working out in the weight room. They are mandated to wear a mask at all times while in the school building, including while they are lifting weights. Is the school district required to check the oxygen level of these students while working out with masks on to ensure their oxygen does not drop below 92%? What truly does not make sense is that a person is exempt from wearing a face mask when ‘actively participating in broadcast communication,’ yet when children are working out, warming up, or just after a run, they are required to put on a face mask? Can you please tell me how this is logical?
These kids are sweating, hot, and in some cases winded. I am told that many kids pull down their masks because they are having a difficult time breathing, or to wipe the sweat off their faces while they are in the weight room. How is that helpful in stopping the spread of COVID? My daughter runs 4-5 miles prior to the weight room exercises then immediately goes to the weight room for a work out. So, as she is recovering from her run, she has to put on a mask to go inside and keep the mask on the entire time she is lifting weights. I don’t believe this is the in the best healthiest interest of these children.
Suggestions for Athletes
I’d like to offer a couple suggestions to keep athletes safe, yet not force them to cover their hot, glistening, sweaty faces; thus, forcing them to breath in their own carbon dioxide, keeping them from fresh air, as many may be gasping for after a work-out or run.
- In the sport of cross country, have the kids do a staggered start to help keep them socially distance without worrying about masks around their wrists.
- Don’t have the kids wear masks while warming up – there is usually ample green space where the athletes can do their warm-ups and remain socially distanced.
- Allow the kids enough time to cool down before forcing them to cover their faces – keep them socially distanced during this time.
- Limit the number of kids inside a weight room
- Only have them wear a mask when they are entering/leaving (not while lifting)
- Don’t do weight room this season – have the athletes do workouts at home (that don’t require weights). There are plenty of home workouts that are just as good, if not better, than using a weight room. Seriously, if there is this much concern for COVID-19 – do we really need to be doing weight room when there is a viable option to do a similar work-out at home (without weights?)
Spectators Observing Cross County
I see more and more that spectators of outdoor sports are required to wear facial coverings by individual school districts for cross-country. I understand you believe that wearing a facial covering slows the spread of COVID-19 (even though the daily infections being reported has not dropped significantly since that mask requirement was put in to place by Governor DeWine almost 6 weeks ago.)
I completely disagree with wearing a facial covering outside if I am able to remain at least 6 feet from other spectators. At most of these cross-country meets there is ample green space to successfully socially distance. If I can successfully socially distance, I feel I shouldn’t be required to wear a face covering while outdoors. May I please suggest that spectators only wear a mask when they cannot remain 6 feet apart. If they cannot socially distance, then they can pull the face mask up to cover their face. I believe this to be in accordance with the governor’s’ mandate on July 23, 2020 stating:
“Facial Coverings (Masks). Except as provided herein, all individuals, in the State of Ohio shall wear facial coverings at all times when:
- In any indoor location that is not a residence;
- Outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from
individuals who are not members of their family/household; or
- Waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation…..”
Most spectators are adults. I think we are capable of pulling up a facial covering when we are within 6 feet of someone else. I sometimes feel as though we are being treated like preschoolers. Especially when the message communicated to the parents by school is in a nutshell: You must do as we say and wear a facemask at all times, even when you are 50 feet away from others, or we will take sports away from your children. This isn’t freedom. This isn’t about health and safety beyond COVID. This is emotional manipulation, and with all due respect, starting to sound like dictatorship.
I know you are all doing what you think is best to slow the spread of COVID-19. What concerns me most is that my school district is not merely meeting the mandates, they are exceeding them by over-restricting, going above and beyond what is truly required all in the name of “safety” or maybe it’s for optics and appearance. They then can say to others ‘look at everything we are doing to keep you safe.’ Even if it isn’t safe from a broader/bigger picture, a forest-view of the whole person – not just the COVID related issue.
I believe there is a fine line between making interpretations from the state mandates and forcing stricter requirements. It is my belief that by crossing this line, and forcing athletes to wear masks while lifting weights, warming-up, cooling down, or for students during P.E. classes, crosses that line and actually puts the athletes, our children, at a higher health risk and in greater danger. I am deeply, deeply distressed regarding the masking requirements for these children athletes while exercising and the effect it will have on them.
Please, please, reconsider the athletic mask mandates. Especially the one where the kids are required to wrap masks around their wrists, run a couple miles, and then put the wet, sweaty and possibly dirty facial covering over their glistening with sweat mouths and noses. Surely, we can do better.