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A look into the challenges of COVID-19 during winter sports

A look into the challenges of COVID-19 during winter sports

Forest City vs. Osage

Osage boys basketball coach Mike Brahn talks to a player last season. This season, there will be new challenges that players and coaches will have to deal with in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

There’s an old cliché in sports that head coaches love to use. It can get to be a tiring message, but it’s effective when communicating the viewpoint of the team about its future.

That cliché?

“We’re taking it one game at a time.”

Most of the time, reporters leave out old clichés in stories. But this upcoming winter sports season, that cliché has more meaning now than it maybe ever has.

With the environment surrounding COVID-19 seemingly worsening every day – and the 14-day rolling average in North Iowa counties remaining high – there’s potential that student-athletes or coaches could be exposed to the virus. That translates to games being canceled or players missing time.

“You never know which game might be your last one in a season like this,” Osage boys’ basketball coach Mike Brahn said. “You could have three games scheduled for the week and then play one or two of them. You might not play any of them.”

So, yes, the old cliché of taking it game by game is more specific to this year. However, coaches and players are making sure they make the most out of the opportunity.

Most coaches are making sure their players wear masks during practices, as Iowa guidelines state that if someone comes in contact with a positive case, the person who doesn’t have COVID-19 won’t have to quarantine, as long as both people are wearing masks at the time contact occurs.

Leland Foster, head coach of Newman Catholic wrestling, is requiring his wrestlers to mask up during practice – which poses challenges.

“A lot of people don’t wrestle. They’ve never tried to put something over their face while they’re breathing heavy. It’s extremely difficult,” Foster said. “But we are abiding by every guideline that is put out there.”

Foster also says he cleans his wrestling room before and after practice, and sanitizes often.

There’s plenty of new guidelines that are required by the state associations, such as sanitizing basketballs and limiting player interaction. A proclamation put out earlier this month from the governor states that only two spectators per athlete are allowed in the gym to watch the game.

Those new guidelines are meant to limit the number of people in attendance in order to lessen the chances of contact, while maintaining social distancing. Limiting contact between players is something coaches have also looked at.

“I’ve tried to separate the varsity team from the J/JV,” Newman Catholic boys’ basketball coach Jerry Gatton said. “The less guys you have around each other, the less chances that people can get it. We’ve tried to limit that.”

When it comes to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, the challenges can be tough for indoor sports like wrestling and basketball.

“At the same time, we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible,” Forest City boys’ basketball coach Dan Rosacker said. “Trying to keep a routine of what we’ve done over the years. We’ve got some guys coming back that have known what we’ve done, but we’ve also had to add some of the COVID mitigation to that.”

It seems the theme of the upcoming season is remaining consistent across the state of Iowa: Do what you can to stay healthy and keep the season going.

“I think we’re all in the same boat,” Gatton said. “We’re just praying to God that we’re going to have a season. Now we have to hope we can go week to week. Can we get a game in next week? Can we get a game in the following week?”

Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at or by phone 641-421-0598.


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