Athletes, coaches adapt to changing mask rules

Sophomore Anika Raburn competes in the Friday Night Lights meet in Kernersville on Sept. 10. Photo courtesy of Hannah Bernhardt

Sports are difficult enough on their own, but adding a pandemic to the mix has made them feel bizarre for many athletes, too.

And if playing sports during a pandemic isn’t hard enough on its own, each county follows its own set of masking rules.  

The DAC7 schools. Photo courtesy of Riverside Athletics

Riverside athletic director Robert Duncan says that creates unique challenges for athletic conferences like the DAC7 Conference, which includes Durham, Orange and Alamance County schools.  

“Each county follows a different set of rules ,” said Duncan. 

The Riverside soccer team meets after a 2-0 loss to Chapel Hill on Sept. 23. Photo by Ethan Haine.

Riverside cross country coach Shaun Thompson said Durham County’s protocols have remained consistent throughout the pandemic.

“I’m not sure about other countries, ” said Thompson. [In Durham], it was a mandatory requirement for us to wear masks during sports. Now we aren’t required at all during athletic activities. 

Thompson said Wake County was very lenient early when coming to athletes not requiring to wear masks. Others, such as Chapel Hill, were very strict about wearing masks

“Masking when possible during athletic events is always the safer option,” Thompson said. “But when playing a sport your body is pushed to a higher stress level.” 

Riverside’s volleyball team huddles before a game against Northern on Sept. 21. Photo by Avery Prince.

Track coach Jason Smoots said competing in masks makes sports even more challenging, and athletes must continue to social distance to stay safe. 

“I feel like the most difficult challenge of our time is to maintain social distance,” Smoots said. “It is the ability to maintain psychological fortitude.

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