Student-athletes share their opinions on wearing masks for sports


Emily Matthews: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Youth baseball players, some with masks on, sit far apart as they wait for their turn to step into the batter’s box.

Amidst the great COVID-19 pandemic, masks have become the staple of preventing the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that masks drastically reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Wearing a mask lets others know that one doesn’t want to get sick. But what about wearing masks for sports?

The CDC has suggested wearing masks for sports, but they’ve also recognized that athletes shouldn’t wear masks if it causes difficulty breathing. This suggestion has led people to ponder if masks are entirely necessary for sports or if masks just cause difficulty breathing.

On Nov. 17, the Tom Wolf Administration issued an immediate order requiring athletes to wear masks while playing in sports. This decision led many people to wonder about the safety of the athletes. There was much confusion on if this rule would apply to all sports and all athletes.

However, just three days later, on Nov. 20, the state clarified the mask mandate by highlighting section three of the order. Section three of the order essentially stated that athletes don’t have to wear masks if the masks induce difficulty breathing, could cause a medical condition or could make an existing medical condition more severe.

In regards to school athletics, the state is leaving the decision to wear masks during sports up to the schools. Winter sports, which are all indoor sports, have arrived, so Freedom has had to make many decisions regarding face-coverings.

For winter sports, student-athletes must wear some form of face-covering during practices. All winter sports, such as boys basketball, girls basketball and the wrestling team, are included in this rule. For some basketball players, wearing masks has made playing the game harder.

“Masks have affected my performance in basketball negatively. The masks make it harder to breathe when you’re running up and down the court,” junior girls basketball player Isabella Klenk said.

Outside of high school sports, a group of Freedom students play indoor soccer at Tri-County Soccer and Sports Complex, where players must wear masks unless they have a doctor’s excuse. Freshman soccer player and cross country runner James Couch is a part of that team.

“I think that masks have had a huge impact on soccer, and they have affected my way of playing the sport. I cannot get enough oxygen into my lungs, which makes me feel like I am about to pass out,” Couch said.

Sophomore soccer goalie and basketball player Trenton Heasley has also experienced difficulty breathing while wearing a mask. He has asthma, which greatly affects his ability to breathe. Heasley didn’t know that indoor soccer players had to have a doctor’s excuse to be exempt from the rule, so he had to wear a mask for half of a game.

“I understand the risk I take and the risk I pose to others by not wearing a mask, but it becomes incredibly difficult to breathe with a mask on while playing. I played half an indoor game with a mask for 25 minutes and wasn’t able to catch my breath until several minutes after the game,” Heasley said.

On the other hand, masks still greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus even during sports. However, the general consensus of student-athletes is that masks are primarily redundant for athletics.

“If we are standing right next to each other, I feel like a mask is not going to stop anything. It is just a precaution that we have. I believe masks are just hurting the players,” Couch said.