Radnor Sports During a Global Pandemic


Radnor Girls Basketball Tryouts – Photo by Sammy Rosin

Audrey Rubenstein

This year, indoor sports come with many complications and restrictions, but with its new ranking system, RTSD is working on a solution.  

During this past summer when the sport pre-seasons were not allowed, numerous student-athletes would meet up “randomly” at basketball courts, running trails, etc. The athletes were not patient enough for the school board to let them play at the high school with guidance and safety measures, so they decided to hold their own practices. 

During the end of November through the beginning of March, however, sports are usually played indoors with people tightly packed into gyms, and students cannot randomly meet up outside as easily. And with recent COVID conditions, the Governor has limited the number of people indoors to a maximum of 10% capacity and is strictly prohibiting any larger gathering with the help of law enforcement. 

Since Governor Wolf shut down Pennsylvania’s sports last December, people are trying to think of better and safer ways to get back to the gym, pool, or river. So far, winter athletes have been wearing masks and social distancing when possible, not holding indoor sports competitions, limiting practices to ten people in the gym with masks on at all times, and using gyms at different workout times to limit crowds. In an attempt to continue sports while keeping everyone safe, Radnor high school released rankings for each sport to help outline the restrictions that they would have to follow such as staying fully virtual for school and only letting ten people in the gym while practicing. 

Radnor High School sent out an email on December 2, 2020, categorizing each sport as a high, moderate, or low risk of COVID transmission: 

Wrestling (boys): Higher-risk sport and masks are on full time 

Ice Hockey (girls and boys): Higher-risk sport and masks full time

Basketball (girls and boys): Moderate-risk sport and masks full time 

Crew (girls and boys): Moderate-risk sport and masks full time

Swimming (girls and boys): Low-risk sport and only have to wear masks when outside the pool

Diving (girls and boys): Low-risk sport and only have to wear masks when outside the pool

Indoor Track and Field (girls and boys): Low-risk sport and have to wear masks full time


According to this ranking system,  in early-December students playing sports that were a low or moderate risk could still attend school, until their sports competitions started. 

Radnor Girls Crew Fall Practice – Photo from Instagram @radnorgirlscrew

The categorization of crew and basketball, both moderate-risk, has left many students and parents confused. In basketball the athletes are sprinting up and down the court, breathing heavily onto each other, playing contact defense, and jumping after the ball at the same time as three other girls/ boys. As a basketball player who often comes home from games with bruises on my arms and legs, I understand the intense physical contact of the sport.  In crew, even though people are breathing heavily, they are still outdoors (which allows the air to circulate), and paddling a boat with either 5 or 9 girls, well under the 50-person outdoor gathering limit. Being outdoors lets the team easily social distance when not in the boat and the constant airflow helps stop the containment of the virus in one place. Unlike basketball, crew is a completely non-contact sport. With this ranking system, many were left wondering, how did basketball, an indoor contact sport, get thrown in the same bucket as crew, an outdoor non-contact sport? 

Mr. Friel, the Athletic Director at Radnor High school said that the ranking system is following “the Center for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) guidelines, with Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) guidelines, and the Central League guidelines.” He continued to explain that Radnor did not determine the rankings, they are just following them. The only decision that Radnor High School made by itself was to have the high-risk sports stay home. All other high schools are letting all of their student-athletes attend school in the hybrid phase, regardless of their sport’s risk level.

After experiencing a total sports shutdown from mid-December to early-January, almost all of the student-athletes would rather keep playing with restrictions, like having to stay home, rather than lose sports altogether. From December 12th to January 4th,  our Governor, Tom Wolf,  shut down all school sports.

When the PA government shut down the sports many of the student-athletes became frustrated, because they believed that they could keep everyone safe while still playing their sport. The senior girls cross country captain Helena Zuckerman suggested that the teams “could have different workout times that are split up by your grade, skill level, or different workouts that you would want to do that day.” Helena had been looking forward to being a senior that gets “ to make a speech at the end of the season and get recognized for all of their hard work.” Most of the student-athletes, especially the seniors, want to feel heard by the administration and return to sports to lead their teams to one last good season.

Radnor Girls Basketball Tryouts – Photo by Sammy Rosin

During the total shutdown, some students began to host their own makeshift practices again, like over the summer. Many teams were meeting up without masks and playing contact sports. Ava Gummel, who has been playing with the Radnor girls basketball team for the past three years, said that during the winter season, she is feeling less and less safe with the COVID precautions. “I felt safer being outside because of the airflow,” she said, “when I was at practice/tryouts inside some girls weren’t wearing their masks properly,” making her feel less safe when indoors. These athletes have been consistently meeting up during the lockdowns, independently of official school practices, and have no intention of stopping if there’s another lockdown. Some think that the only way to stop these student-run unofficial practices is for the administration to let the sports start to run again and continue with the strict COVID restrictions.

Even though athletes are grateful for the opportunity to continue sports, some are still concerned with the safety of continuing sports and attending school simultaneously. Some interpret the district’s three-tier system as the administration prioritizing sports over school. A few parents and students have been saying that forcing students in high-risk sports to choose to stay home for the sake of athletics could also lead to a drop in grades. But, numerous students also appreciate the negative mental health effects of quitting sports. Many students depend on sports to relieve stress about school and other problems. 

Unfortunately, this system has left some students at a tough crossroad where they feel pressured to choose whether they should quit their sport and continue to go to hybrid school, or if they should just suffer through online school and stay home.  This leaves the high schoolers in a hard spot navigating academics and athletics. 

 Since the Governor’s sport shutdown ended on January 4th, until athletes start competitions, Radnor High School had been allowing athletes a part of moderate and low-risk sports to come into school and requiring the student-athletes that play a high-risk sport to be fully virtual. This system is similar to a move by the administration in the fall which required all athletes to go fully virtual in November after there were 15 cases at the high school. Then, when all the students returned to go back to school at the end of November/beginning of December there were only 3 cases in all of the schools. Multiple people believe this would work again in the winter, including Junior basketball player Ava Gummel who thought “High contact sports like basketball and wrestling are at risk for getting COVID and it would be safer if they stayed fully virtual.” 

Radnor Swimming Practice – Photo by Sammy Rosin

In fact, this past weekend, Mrs. Kevgas sent an email to parents saying that all sports, with the exception of crew and track, have to become fully virtual until competitions end, following through with the administration’s original plan. Crew and track are the only sports that have no scheduled competitions, allowing these athletes to continue hybrid school. Another message from the Radnor administration specified that no spectators are allowed but all competitions will be filmed and streamed via Youtube. Later tonight, catch Radnor Swimming on youtube facing Strath Haven in their first meet of the year. 

Radnor Swimming Practice – Photo by Sammy Rosin

When speaking to Mr.Friel about this matter he said “Just having the option to go to school is helpful to many and some people do better when in school than home.” It was also brought to his attention at the end of the fall season that “97 percent of the games were played during the fall season” with masks on along with proper COVID restrictions. This leads him to believe that we can replicate this success in the winter season without having to fully shut down again.

The Central League finalized the schedules for the 2021 sports season on Wednesday, January 6th. The sports that are facing the most change in how they practice are wrestling and track. For wrestling, athletes will be split up by their weight class and will be given 1 to 2 partners to wrestle with in pods. This will help limit the spread of the virus if someone on the team becomes infected. For track,  athletes will not be attending any meets this winter because of the inability of college tracks to host events. Instead, they plan to gear up for the spring and try with outdoor track workouts. Track athletes presented the idea of doing 1 v 1 outdoor races to the Central League. A full plan is yet to be finalized, but runners and all athletes alike are staying hopeful for the spring season.