Spring Sports and COVID-19 Guidelines

As Petaluma City Schools prepares to transition into hybrid learning, sports are starting up once again.

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Jacob Reuser, junior, practicing golf.

Annabelle Stuelpe and Fiona Gmeiner

As Petaluma City Schools prepares to transition into hybrid learning, sports are starting up once again. The timeline for specific sports depends on the COVID-19 color tier Sonoma County is in at that time: cross country, tennis, track, golf, and swimming can start while the county is in the purple zone, while basketball, cheerleading, and wrestling must wait until the county reaches the yellow zone (when less than 2% of COVID-19 tests are positive).

Junior Camila Garcia, a swimmer at our school, shared her ongoing experience with returning to sports through the pandemic. She explained that to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines, the team is now split into multiple groups to minimize contact and any potential spread. There is a maximum of two people per swim lane (compared to six people pre-COVID) and those two must alternate between the wall and the flag line to maintain a six foot distance. Additionally, the once hour and a half long practices have been lowered to forty-five minute sessions, and masks are worn right up to and immediately following swimming in the pool. There are also temperature checks and health checks at the door to provide a safe experience for the whole team. The COVID-19 guidelines are enforced by swim coach Mitch McSweeney, who has been running practices at Petaluma High School since our school does not have a pool. 

“He is doing a really good job trying to make sure we’re all socially distanced and keeping the different groups separated. The minute any COVID-19 issues might happen everything would shut down immediately, so he’s keeping everyone really safe,” said Garcia.

Garcia herself has been able to practice swim as a club sport since June 2020 with similar social distancing and two people per lane guidelines. However, she expressed that swimming at Casa and seeing other members of the team and McSweeney, has been a positive experience.

“I’m really happy that sports are back because I miss my friends on the team. I haven’t been able to see my whole team yet because we’re not allowed to interact with the other cohorts yet, but there is a good amount of people at practice. People are really excited to get back in the pool, exercise, see their friends, and also see the coach,” said Garcia.

 She added that many swimmers are excited for their first meet, which will be taking place on Wednesday, March 17th. 

Junior Jacob Reuser, a varsity golfer, shared his team’s approach to following COVID guidelines. 

“What we’re doing is the pod system, with most of the varsity level players in pod one, and freshman/ JV league players are in pod two. We’re all one team though,” said Reuser.

Because of the nature of golf, COVID guidelines are easy to follow. It is a no contact sport, and players can easily stay masked and keep distanced while playing. Our school’s golf league consists of seven teams, and Reuser expects that the team will compete against their typical six opponents, despite COVID being a present factor. 

There has been some debate over whether sports should be allowed to practice and compete during lockdowns. Reuser shares his opinion.

“I think that there are more important things that the school can focus on, but I think they are doing a good job figuring out scheduling conflicts. I think that the protocols that are being put in place for golf are good. Golf is also a pretty socially distanced sport,” Reuser said.

Reuser has been able to practice golf independently since the courses were reopened in June of 2020. He is excited to get to play with his team once again. Reuser began golfing in eighth grade as an activity to do with his grandfather. At the time, he was competing in track, yet by ninth grade golf became his main sport. Reuser noted that the distance learning schedule has allowed for many golfers to gain additional practice time.

“Players who choose will go to the course at 1:00 [with practice starting at 3:00] and get additional practice time. We have a lot of devoted players on our team,” Reuser said.

Reuser took advantage of the initial COVID lockdowns last year to work on his skills. The spring season in 2020 was interrupted by the first lockdown, which was discouraging for many athletes. Reuser however took a break until courses were reopened, and then worked hard on improving his game. 

Overall, student athletes are determined to work around COVID to practice their passions. Good luck Gauchos!