It’s a sweltering hot day, and Country Day soccer players are sprinting around the field at the Cherry Island Sports Complex.
The student athletes start with masks all on, but one by one, the rigorous exercise gets to them. Masks start pulling down as players try desperately to catch their breath. By the time the game is in full swing, only one or two Country Day students can still manage to play with their masks on.
The players from the opposing school never brought masks on the field to begin with.
So why the double standard?
Most schools in the league don’t require masks for soccer players on the field. Country Day added its own requirements for sports masking, in an admirable but misguided attempt to go above and beyond for safety. Country Day students are essentially required to wear masks at all times while playing, which works perfectly fine for some sports.
Golf, for example. It’s generally a less strenuous activity, so players can easily walk around with a mask on. Golfers also usually play quite far from one another, upwards of 10 meters on occasion, so students also are able to take a quick mask break.
But the problem is that it’s just not practical in some other situations.
In soccer, the high-intensity play means that it’s really hard for athletes to constrain their breathing with a mask, and since it’s all outside in a wide-open area, that’s reasonably safe. Tennis is similar; players are often half a court apart. Masks shouldn’t need to be required in these circumstances.
The story is a bit different for indoor sports. Both volleyball and basketball are in the middle of their seasons, and they’re both played in school gyms.
Because the coronavirus spreads far more readily indoors, masks should be required, especially for basketball, a contact sport.
However, if enough other precautions are taken, then mask rules can become looser. Students already have to take weekly COVID-19 tests to play in basketball games, and many are already vaccinated.
The CDC also has released new guidance as of May 14 that practically eliminates mask-wearing recommendations for those vaccinated.
So, eventually, if each player can present a negative test and is, most importantly, vaccinated, then masks should become an optional safety measure for indoor sports as well.
This should also be the expectation for next year, should the daily case counts continue to improve. Masks, while providing a good layer of safety, are just not great for exercising.