By Ashley Hauber
As anyone who has ever played any kind of sport in their entire lives would know, the fans make a huge difference. When athletes struggle, they look to the stands for support. When they succeed, there is a huge confidence boost to hear the crowd after that shot at the buzzer, the touchdown, or the photo finish at the end of the race.
Most athletes do not have much of a career after high school. However, we all look back fondly at those memories with our teammates, friends, parents or grandparents attending those games and meets. Those memories are engrained in our heads forever. Those games and meets only happen once. You may play the same team or run the same 400 meter race at a difference time, but that special moment in time only happens once.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen stadiums empty. Fans in the stands are replaced by paper images of people. For professional sports, they still get to have an audience by national television coverage. For our high school athletes, it’s a completely different story. They just get to look at empty seats. No cheering from the crowd, much less the added support system. This fall, that was slightly changed to allow two spectators, two tickets for entry per athlete.
With one exception, the governor’s office has instructed the WHSAA to make sure that only indoor track isn’t allowed to have spectators. Football, basketball, and even band are allowed to have two tickets for their game or concert. Why is indoor track being singled out? These athletes deserve their support system just as much as basketball, football, and band. The current restrictions that the Wyoming governor has in place is the root cause for inequity.
The Campbell County Recreation Center Field House can house 2,000 people safely per the fire code and yet no parents are allowed in. A gentleman from the WHSAA was instructed that if they wanted the students to have spectators, they would have to limit the number of athletes to 50. At [the] current time, they are allowing up to 300 athletes. I don’t want the number of athletes to be limited, by any means. I want the kids to compete and all the kids possible.
If they were to allow 300 athletes with two tickets, that is only 900 people. That is less than half of its capacity and still allows 9.48 square feet per person. That is enough for social distancing of six feet. In addition, if they were to require all athletes, coaches, and volunteers to be screened and all people [who] enter the field house to wear masks, everyone should be considered safe.
I know the Campbell County Recreation Center Field House is an amazing facility and that not all of cities and towns have in Wyoming. However, it is not the only one of its kind. The governors’ restrictions should be based on the facility available and should not be a broad spectrum impact across the board. These facilities and their size should determine the impacts of the number of people in attendance.