Dear Athletic Support: Recently, my home state did away with the mask mandate. I was shocked when the local school board followed suit by voting to no longer require students to wear masks. My son’s a senior high baseball player. I’m not sure how the removal of masks will impact his final season, or any of the other school-sanctioned athletic events, but I’d sure hate for my son to lose another year due to COVID. I understand people’s hang-ups with masks. I don’t particularly like wearing a mask myself. But I would’ve worn one for my son, if that’s what it took for him to get his senior season. With everyone returning from Spring Break trips and Easter gatherings, I feel like we could definitely see a spike in cases again. Maybe there’s nothing to worry about. Maybe my son will get to play a normal season, but I can’t help but feel like we’ve been put at a competitive disadvantage. Our athletes will be much more susceptible to the virus compared to schools that still enforce masks. Maybe everything will be fine. But if this thing comes back to bite us, and my boy loses out on his senior season (over something that was completely avoidable), I will not be happy. What do you think? Could the removal of the masks hurt a team’s chances as the school year comes to a close? – Disappointed Dad

Dear Disappointed: As a country, we’re not out of the COVID woods just yet. Things are better. Sure. But COVID isn’t gone by a long stretch.

If the virus got into your son’s school and started making its way through the student body then, yes, I think your son’s team has a greater chance of infection compared to a school where students are still required to wear masks.

There’s an old coaching idiom that goes something like: “It’s always easier to take away than to add.” I used to employ this thought process when determining how many wind sprints my team would run at the end of practices. I always started with the highest number possible in the summer, then worked my way back down as the season went along.

The reason?

I knew once I dropped the number, it would be twice as hard to go back up again. The same is true in this situation.

With the end of school fast approaching, it would’ve been easy to ride the masks out until summer. The kids were already accustomed to them. Masks were part of everyone’s daily routine. So why shake things up with less than a couple months to go?

I can’t answer that question. But I will say this: If things do turn south and cases start to rise – which in turn means games will be forfeited – it won’t be easy to ask students to wear masks again.

It’ll already be too late.

Final thought: If I were a coach, and my season was on the line, I’d consider urging my players to still wear masks at school. Maybe that’s something your son’s coach would consider?

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to eli.cranor@gmail.com

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