COVID causes changes for Kahok Sports

Amber Gassmann, Staff Writer

Kahoki athletes and fans adapt to new challenges and regulations due to COVID this spring. This past year has been a challenge, and for Kahok Athletics, there is no exception. New challenges have included difficulty reaching out to athletes for the spring season due to a lack of in-person communication. 

Girls softball coach Jessica Schmittling says that she has been relying on emails, social media, and just word of mouth more than ever. 

This year has been especially hard for boys volleyball. Coach Michael Nichols who had a preseason meeting for the absent 2020 season says that 45 students showed up, so he expected there to be a surplus of players for the 2021 season and there would be a freshman and JV team. However, this year he says that they will only have a JV team. He also says that since they haven’t had an official season, they are “going to have to fight to get that [buzz] back.” 

Because COVID is a huge factor for in-person fans, there is a concern for Kahok fans.

 “I think  you could look at it on one side of the glass and we may lose some fans because why wouldn’t you want to sit in the comfort of your own home and watch it,” said Athletic Director Clay Smith. “But on the other side too you have dedicated fans and family members that I think would rather be in person and watch their kids play. So if I had to give you a solid answer I would think no we’re probably not losing fans on an average basis.”

Smith also said that we are very fortunate for Kahoks Sports Network who is run by Todd Duke. Kahok Softball is also using Facebook live as an option to have more at-home fans watch.

To the dedicated fans who decide to watch in person, there are new rules to follow.

 “For fans, we will work to make sure that they are all masked as well whenever they arrive,” said Schmittling. 

“Thankfully there hasn’t been a problem with spectators not wearing a mask,” said Smith. “If a spectator refuses to wear a mask, they’re going to be asked to leave immediately.” 

As for visiting away games in the Southwestern Conference Smith said visiting spectators will not be allowed at this time and if  out of conference games are played the Athletic Department will coordinate with the other school for COVID protocols.

As for athletes themselves, there are of course precautions in place. For Kahok Softball there have been protocols put in place such as wearing masks at all times, taking temperatures upon arrival, symptom screening, and attempting to social distance. 

The real question is: “What will happen if an athlete does contract COVID-19?” Smith’s plan includes the following: “We immediately put the program on pause and we go through our contact tracing protocols. The kids are all quarantined until we finish that protocol and we figure out contact tracing and we go through the proper steps with our school nurse and our administration, and we contact the families and the kids. If they need to be quarantined, they will go through those steps and if we decide that kids are okay and can still play, then we will get them to play.”

Overall Kahok Sports is adapting to change and so have many of their athletes. Nichols said that some of his student-athletes in the classroom are “very excited to be able to get back on to sports.” 

Smith has also been thankful for the flexibility of everyone during this time. “I’m just thankful for them and all they’ve done because I think we’ve learned more from you guys [students at Collinsville High School] than what you guys have learned from us as well so I think it’s a two-way street,” said Smith.