Back in the game: GPPSS changes basketball mask protocols for athletes on the court

Back in the game: GPPSS changes basketball mask protocols for athletes on the court

Photo credit: Sophia Dragich

By Sophia Dragich and Jo Jackson

The Grosse Pointe Public School System adjusted its mask protocols for basketball games, saying athletes are exempt from wearing masks while playing on the court. However, players on the bench, coaches on the sidelines, and fans in the stands are still required to wear them at all times. Additionally, all players and coaches are required to wear them during practice.

According to Athletic Director Michelle Davis, the changes in these rules occurred after the Washtenaw County Public Health (WCHD) and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) advised that when athletes are physically competing, masks are optional.

“WCHD and MDHHS recommended that athletes wear masks at all times except when in active play during a competition or contest when it poses a safety risk,” Davis said. “Athletes can take them off while on the floor, mat, in the pool, or on equipment during a competition.”

Boys Varsity Assistant Coach David Rickerman says that in addition to continuing to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the new mask protocols were also enacted to make athletes feel more comfortable.

“The main [reason] is to still have people wearing masks to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Rickerman said. “They did find that boys [and] girls running so much on the floor with a mask on was causing harm to the players [such as] passing out.”

While causing harm to athletes was the main reason for change of the mask rules, another reason for them was, according to Davis, that organizations hoped many students would receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This year [the organizations] updated the mandate to reflect the fact that student-athletes have the opportunity to receive the [COVID-19] vaccine,” Davis said. “[They] are hoping more student athletes will be vaccinated.”

After these new rules were put in place, Varsity Basketball Captain Annabel Ayrault believes her team has adjusted well to them, as they had been used to playing with masks as of last season.

“I think we’re just pretty used to playing in masks because we practice in them, so it is not that big of an adjustment,” Ayrault said. “It is nice not playing with them on when we’re at away games.”

While Davis similarly believes that athletes will have an easier time playing without wearing masks, she says keeping players and all those involved with athletic events healthy and safe is the main priority.

“I am hoping it will make participating a bit less strenuous on athletes while in active play during a contest, but I will always be concerned, and put first, the health and safety of our student-athletes,” Davis said.

I know many of the players are very happy to be playing basketball and willing to do what it takes to play, and keep people safe.

— David Rickerman