Penn Hills makes strong commitment to masks for athletes

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Sunday, January 17, 2021 | 9:01 AM


The athletes in the Penn Hills community just want to find a way to play sports during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

Therefore, the Penn Hills athletic department felt it was necessary to be one of many schools that would mandate wearing masks during competition this winter season.

Penn Hills decided to take the extra precautions in an effort to allow their student athletes to compete in their various sports, as well as maintain the integrity of their hybrid model of schooling they would like to finish the school year with.

“We haven’t had many cases in athletics,” athletic director Stephanie Strauss said. “I think that’s a testament to our kids and coaches that they are making good decisions outside of school. They are all wearing their masks in practices and games.”

Strauss said Penn Hills only will compete against teams willing to wear masks during competition. However, Strauss hasn’t run into many situations where an opposing school isn’t willing to compete with masks on.

“In the end, the student athletes and the coaches just want to play, so they are willing to do whatever it takes in order to play,” Strauss said. “They really bought into our plan and our policies.

“I think it took a little bit of getting used to it at first. They had to get into a different kind of shape in order to wear a mask while playing.”

In a typical year, Penn Hills would have a girls and boys basketball doubleheader. However, the Indians reshuffled their schedules this season to split the doubleheader and have the girls varsity and junior varsity games on one night and the boys games on another.

For basketball, Strauss expressed the programs haven’t had too many issues when it comes to practicing since they have the facilities to follow health and safety protocols. Penn Hills can use its main gymnasium as well as its auxiliary gym.

During a game, the players are supposed to use their designated seats on the bench that are 6 feet apart, and the basketball is disinfected after each quarter.

The coaches of all the sports have played a crucial role in making sure everyone stays healthy as they take attendance at every meeting, practice and competition. Also, the coaches take the temperatures of all players and fellow coaches any time the teams gather.

“In the end, we’re all happy we are playing,” Strauss said. “I think we’re all appreciating the time we get to play a little more. You can see the kids enjoying themselves while they play since you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

Strauss said Penn Hills will continue to abide by the 10% of occupancy limit and follow any updated guidance with the hope that athletes’ family members could attend sporting events later in the winter season. During the fall, Penn Hills allowed two family members per athlete to attend sporting events.

In the meantime, Penn Hills will continue to stream sporting events online to allow family members and members of the community to watch.

When it comes to scheduling, Strauss has worked with athletic directors from other schools to postpone, cancel or reschedule sporting events because of issues related to covid-19.

Depending on the open dates in the calendar, Strauss has worked and will work to reschedule as many games as possible but wants to make sure there aren’t too many competitions scheduled in one week.

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