Safety for All: Our Approach to Athletics During Covid
By Derek Summers, PCA Athletic Director, November 2020
While COVID has affected all of our lives in the past several months, an area that may not be as obvious to people is school athletics. Portsmouth Christian Academy has been blessed to have a fall season this year. We are grateful that our varsity men’s and women’s soccer teams and our varsity volleyball team were all able to complete 11-game regular seasons this fall. On top of that, all had an opportunity to compete in a postseason tournament. Our cross-country teams also were able to participate in 6 meets this season and are competing in post-season meets as well! Our Junior High teams also practiced all fall and were able to compete in at least one event/game before their seasons came to a close.
When Covid first required a pause across the nation in the Winter of 2020, I wasn’t sure how or if we would play sports in the fall. We prayed for wisdom, and we stepped through a lot of scenarios to try to weigh all of the outcomes. For all of the above athletics to have been possible so far, we weighed various factors, including the physical, mental, and spiritual health and safety of our student-athletes. We decided that our fall season could take place safely under guidelines and recommendations from our state to return to play. We developed plans before the start of the season and made adjustments as needed during the following months that would allow us to participate for the full season. We communicated our plans and protocols with other schools who also wanted to offer their students an athletic program this year.
Despite our best efforts, we know that our plans aren’t perfect. Our school, even with its layered approach to health and safety, is not COVID-proof. The solutions that we find and the decisions we make in the midst of this pandemic can never quite be airtight. As we head into winter, there are more unknowns and new updates to consider. The state of COVID is evolving in New Hampshire and in the Seacoast region, and as it does, we’re having to step back and reassess the decisions we’ve previously made. We’re needing to continuously look at all of the angles of the scenarios as they develop in order to see how we might best make changes. In navigating all of this, we are thankful that our team has been working hard, doing its best to be agile to make the needed adjustments throughout the year.
Athletic directors and school leaders are working to make decisions in each season based on what we know at the time; and we understand every school, team, and league is doing the same in their own communities. Each is striving to best serve the immediate community. With this—even when decisions may differ amongst groups (as they are bound to)—we understand that each community’s situation is different, but each health and safety decision that is made is made with great thought and consideration, and that is something each school respects.
Those involved in athletics know that there is much experiential knowledge gained in school sports—grit, tenacity, teamwork, leadership, commitment, sportsmanship, physical fitness, persistence, and sport-specific skills. The goal of PCA’s athletic program is to develop each student-athlete in these areas as they seek to honor God on the field and on the courts.
COVID has required us all to navigate new situations, and as we do, I pray that we can continue to figure out these new terrains together as a school community and within the broader, local community. May we come together with our neighbors, fellow athletes, and our officials, meeting each other with grace and understanding as we make adjustments, find solutions, and continue to navigate this pandemic together. We are all playing on the same team after all.