Indoor Sports Face the Challenge of Mask Mandates


Photo courtesy of Andrew Halsing.

Andrew Halsing, Reporter

In the last year, Novato High athletes have faced all sorts of challenges. From having to choose what sport to participate in to shortened seasons, it has certainly been a lot of stress. However, there will still be many challenges ahead, as Marin County remains in an awkward position. COVID-19 cases are lower, but st​​ill at a higher level than hoped for, and the rules for high school athletes wearing masks for indoor sports remains a significant topic even with the high number of vaccinated students. Regulations will certainly be changing from last year.

Over the 2020 sports year, all Novato High athletes were required to wear masks for all sports, indoors and outdoors. Sports like football, water polo, and swimming were among the sports that were outliers to this rule. Although face coverings were required, not everyone abided by this rule. 

“It was pretty strict to begin with,” said senior baseball player Derek Bartram. “But then as the season went on, we started to lose them and then eventually, pretty much no one wore them.”

No matter what happened last year, the biggest question looming is how much (if at all) the mask mandate will budge as the year progresses. Novato High Athletic Director Michele Smith, who has been one of the enforcers of these COVID guidelines, discussed this matter. 

“All outdoor sports do not have to wear masks, but all indoor sports do, and that goes the same way for fans,” Smith said. She also stated that it is “highly encouraged” for fans of outdoor sports to wear face coverings, but it will not be required like it was last year.

While this is great news for fans and players of outdoor sports, indoor sports did not receive the same exciting news. 

“Next year. That’s not my timeline, that’s not what I like to see, but I think that’s what the county is leaning towards,” Smith said, when asked what she thought would be a realistic time for indoor sports to lose the masks. 

While this news is definitely disheartening for a multitude of reasons, arguably the biggest one is that masks are simply uncomfortable for most athletes. Additionally, they make players tired more easily, and they make it harder to be successful at a player’s desired sport.

“It’s pretty difficult for players to wear them during games, which could definitely see some people not obeying the rules,” Bartram said.

One difference from last year is that weekly COVID testing will not be required. Throughout all of last year, indoor-sport athletes were required to get weekly COVID tests unless they were able to show proof of vaccination.

Although all of this is certainly disappointing news for all indoor sports athletes and fans, it looks to be for the best. Despite 75% of eligible Marin county residents being fully vaccinated, this battle is far from over. While things have not been getting worse, they certainly haven’t been getting better. Cases have been stagnant as of late. Marin County averaged just over 20 cases per day over these last two weeks. In comparison, over the middle of June in 2020, the county only averaged 17 cases per day. In over a year, we haven’t gotten as close as everyone had hoped toward getting this pandemic in the rear-view mirror. 

While this year has been a rough one, and having masks required for indoor sports isn’t helping, Novato High students are as resilient as they come, and will continue to fight for the end of this pandemic.

For now, if you plan on playing or watching an indoor sport here, mask up!