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Head to Head: Should Grady athletes be required to wear masks during games?

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Head to Head: Should Grady athletes be required to wear masks during games?

April 12, 2021

Masks should be required in Grady sports

When I found out that ultimate frisbee would require athletes to wear masks, I was ecstatic. Soon, I would be back on the field playing the sport I love with friends I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. Above all that, I would feel safe in the process. 

Meanwhile, sanctioned sports, like soccer, lacrosse and tennis, are not required to wear masks. This is a massive mistake. Covid-19 is still heavily present with over 50,000 cases per day in the United States and has continued to be taken lightly by Atlanta Public Schools 

Some argue that masks make it harder to breathe. I admit, in some cases, like doing heavy exercises can cause difficulty breathing. Nevertheless, that is no excuse to put yourself and others around you at risk. Simply put, when everybody wears a mask, the chance of transmission is significantly lower. I’ve had asthma for as a long as I can remember, making it harder for me to breathe while I play sports. I still wear two masks, even while playing. 

People also make the argument that because sports are played outdoors, it’s completely safe for athletes to play without wearing masks. Although that may be partially true, people fail to recognize the other aspects of team sports, such as water breaks and team huddles. 

Players gather together on the sidelines, breathing heavily and talking to one another during water breaks. This is an optimal situation for Covid-19 to spread. While you obviously can’t drink water while wearing a mask, Grady should be more stern on social distancing. Additionally, during team huddles, players stand closely together, maskless and likely shouting or chanting. While team spirit is great and all, in times like these, players should be atleast required to wear a mask at all times before a game.  

Teenagers are considered one of the lowest-risk age groups for Covid-19 hospitalizations. What worries me, however, is how the virus can spread to their parents. It’s common knowledge at this point that the older you are, the more susceptible you are to Covid-19 symptoms.  

Wills Barton, in his opposing view on this topic, says that masks limit the chemistry that is built during team sports; however, I disagree. Both of us play on the ultimate frisbee team, and, without masks, we wouldn’t have a season at all. 

While vaccines are rolling in, the pandemic is still wreaking havoc on the country. At the time of writing (April 2nd), 18 people died of Covid-19 in Georgia yesterday. Grady has been lucky to not have any serious outbreaks, but we can’t continue to rely on this luck, though. APS must apply a mask mandate in competition and in practices to all team sports to limit the constant threat that is Covid-19. 

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William Randall, Sports Managing Editor

Will Randall is a senior and this is his third year on the Southerner staff. When he's not writing sports stories, he can be seen playing them as he's...

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Masks should be optional in Grady sports

When I first heard Grady was planning on allowing athletes to return to their sports, I was thrilled. However, after learning a mask mandate was set to accompany that change, I was a lot less excited. 

As an adamant ultimate frisbee player, I have concerns with the mask regulations in high school sports.

I find that wearing a mask while playing a sport can be very limiting and can make it hard to breathe. In fact, I have seen people throw up from the lack of oxygen and overheating caused by wearing a mask while exercising. It has gotten to the point where athletes can be seen constantly pulling their masks down and gasping for air after every rep.

As a result, I believe Atlanta Public Schools should follow the steps taken by many other school systems in Georgia and make the mask mandate optional for athletes during sports games and practices. This change would align well with Georgia’s health order, which encourages masks but does not require them. 

Another reason why the mask requirement should be optional is the growing availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, which has allowed students and coaches to receive a 90 percent immunity to the disease (once vaccinated).  About 37 out of every one hundred Georgians have already received at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with the number treated growing fast. Most will say that high schoolers can’t get the vaccine; however, the Pfizer vaccine is cleared for individuals 16 years and up, so excluding freshmen, most high school students are old enough to receive the vaccine.

Being vaccinated offer athletes more protection from symptoms and transmission; as more people get vaccinated, populations can get closer to community immunity (occurs when a high enough percentage of the population is immune to an infectious disease,  either through vaccination or previous illness, that the disease is unlikely to spread person-to-person).

The United States expects to have 70 percent of the population vaccinated by September. If this occurred, the community immunity could come into effect, meaning that even those who aren’t vaccinated are at less of a risk.

I believe forcing students to wear masks is taking away from the cooperation and bonds experienced in sports as well. Masks heavily limit interaction among teammates and make it hard for athletes to receive the social benefits from sports. Sports have become one of few remaining outlets for teenagers to be socially active, but it is harder to establish such bonds when you can’t see anyone’s face. Humans interpret personality and feelings based on expressions; it is harder to remember people and understand who they are on a personal level when you can’t see their faces. Communication on the field is also impacted, as it becomes harder to read teammates’ plays and interpret what they want you to do, changing the flow of the sport. 

While it is important to continue to take necessary precautions, students should be allowed to assess their own risk and decide whether they want to wear a mask while playing their sport. This mask mandate seems a little redundant for sports and as the vaccine numbers increase, I think APS should consider reevaluating its policies. Although I will persevere and play with a mask if APS requires me to do so, I am in favor of lifting the mask mandate to make it optional.

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Wills Barton, Sports Section Editor

Wills is a junior at Grady and this is his second year of writing for The Southerner. He enjoys ultimate frisbee and being active during his free time.

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