Athletes, Fans Shift Focus Towards Promising Winter Sports Season Despite Hardships of COVID-19

Victory. It was simply in their blood. They were going to make Woodson beam with pride. Everyone would have seen them nationally dominate with their athletic prowess, but then, the doctor called. Hopefully, victory was the only thing in their bloodstream.

Amid COVID-19’s prevalence in Fairfax County, the approaching winter season of Woodson athletics is scheduled to begin on December 7. 

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) and Woodson Athletic Department are taking all precautionary measures in order to ensure that athletes, coaches and trainers avoid contracting COVID-19 in the off-season and mid-season.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Guidance document, athletes and staff must practice social distancing, wash hands and wear masks at all times, with an exception for high-intensity aerobic activities and swimming.

With new sanitary protocols being implemented, conspicuous modifications will be made for an athletic season that student-athletes so desperately desire to reclaim. 

The VHSL has confirmed that there will be a 60 percent reduction in contests to reduce as much contact as possible. Dan Checkosky, the Director of Student Activities, believes that the new constraint “is better than nothing” and that “[he] just [wants] our kids to get out on the field, water or track and play.” As students practice for these competitions, they must use their own equipment, since sharing would only further increase the risks of spreading COVID-19. 

Daniel Checkosky, W.T. Woodson’s athletic director. Photo courtesy of Daniel Checkosky.

“Right now, the basketball team is outside…they can’t have a basketball passing from one kid to another,” said Checkosky. “They have to bring their [own] basketball because we’re not at a phase where we’re sharing.”

Since a multitude of student-athletes were robbed of their spring season, he hopes that this upcoming season, regardless of its length, will be an opportunity for students to re-immerse themselves in the adrenaline of a game. Although the crowds have been limited to 50 people, including coaches, Woodson plans on finding avenues to galvanize fans and parents to empower their athletes at sporting events. 

“We might do some live-streaming- which will be awesome…FCPS is currently in the process of possibly putting cameras in the gym, so there could be more online watching of games and live streaming,” said a hopeful Checkosky. “If our kids are playing in a quiet and empty gym, I’m okay with that, as long as they’re competing, exercising and getting to be part of a team.” 

In order for students to sustain health while enjoying sports, Checkosky ensures that “in-between games, [the custodians] will be sanitizing the equipment and stands; there are going to be some strict policies in place.”

However, even with a decrease in occupancy and diligent sanitization, students may be reluctant to participate in a sport.  He advises that those with misgivings should not participate until they feel reassured after referring to VHSL guidelines. 

From rigid safety provisions to new forms of fan engagement, Woodson will exercise immense caution and care for its students while fostering a positive environment for students to congregate within. With these precautions, it is likely that victory will be the only thing in Cavaliers’ blood this year. 

“The biggest thing is that I feel bad for our students, parents and coaches. I want them to be active and healthy, not only just physically, but mentally, socially and emotionally,” said Checkosky. “It affects all of us.”