In classrooms and gymnasiums and on playing fields, Catholic students are cooperating with new health and safety protocols, while understanding there are no guarantees in the age of COVID.
School athletic officials are stressing the safety message for young people playing football, soccer, volleyball and running cross-country this fall.
“I think we did a good job explaining the expectations, restrictions and guidelines to our student-athletes and parents,” said Sean Cannon, athletic director at Blessed Trinity Academy in Glenshaw. “Should we fail to follow the rules, no matter how we feel about them, we run the risk of losing a season.”
Temperatures are checked before games and meets, players and runners must wear face masks and socially distance when not competing, and fan attendance is limited.
“Our students and parents have been great,” said Joe Luvara, varsity football coach at St. Louise de Marillac School in Upper St. Clair. “The kids listen because they want to play and they understand the season could be cancelled at any time. And parents have been shouldering more of the load, cleaning uniforms and equipment nightly.”
Rob Glentzer, coordinator of the diocese’s soccer league, is aware of the fluid nature of playing sports during a pandemic.
“What we knew yesterday might not be true today,” he said. “We believe it’s in the children’s best interests to play sports if we can do it as safely as possible, realizing we can never eliminate all risks.”
In addition to the health benefits of physical activity, “young people learn life skills such as working together, communicating, good sportsmanship, humility, showing charity toward others and gaining self-confidence,” Glentzer said.
“So far, the plan is working well,” said diocesan athletic director Gary Roney. “Parents continue to make sacrifices in order for their children to participate in sports. Nobody cares more than mom and dad.”
Luvara commended Roney and the diocese for helping coaches organize leagues this fall. “The eighth graders especially wanted to play football and get ready for high school,” he said. His Trojan squad has started 2-0.
“I’m not surprised the kids are following directions,” Cannon said. “They missed playing and being with their friends during the spring season. It’s really gratifying to see what they can do when they’re really motivated.”
Roney looks at the big picture.
“Playing sports helps our young people grow,” he said, “and it gives us an opportunity to evangelize.”