COVID-19 event guidelines affect fall sports attendance

Senior+students+pose+for+a+group+photo+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+11%2C+for+the+first+home+football+game+against+Mill+Valley.

Wildcat Photo

Senior students pose for a group photo on Friday, Sept. 11, for the first home football game against Mill Valley.

Lynlee Hutchison, Editor in Chief

It has become quite apparent within the first few weeks of De Soto High School students being back in school that the 2020-21 school year will look very different from most.

One major change made to a regular high school activity is football student sections. DHS’ varsity football team had its first home game against its district rival, the Mill Valley Jaguars on Sept. 11. In previous years, these games have attracted a massive crowd, but due to COVID-19 guidelines, only 25 senior students were admitted into last week’s game, along with parents of each player, manager, cheerleader, dancer and band participant. 

“I really never knew how much energy the student section and band brought to football games,” senior quarterback Jackson Miller said. “Definitely very weird not having a bunch of noise at kickoff and throughout the game.”

Although this has been a major adjustment, athletes are thankful for the opportunity to participate in contact activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as many local school districts are not so fortunate. 

“We’re in some weird times right now, and I think being able to play and have any fans at all is a blessing. I know the [football] team isn’t taking anything for granted, and we’re just happy to play,” Miller said. 

Another asset to football is the performance by cheerleaders during the games. These individuals are also grateful to be able to participate in their activity this fall.

I am glad that the cheer team is even able to cheer at home games right now. We are still able to cheer on our team on our own field which is great so that our players feel supported by us and our student section,” senior cheerleader Abby Knuth said. “Before long, our ability to cheer at home games could be something that gets taken from us too due to the virus.”

DHS Athletic Director Ryan Johnson has been working very hard to make sports events as safe as possible with many new accommodations, including the new online ticketing service. 

“It’s [digital ticketing] been a very convenient, cashless system limiting the spread of the virus as best we can by not handling a bunch of money and stopping people and talking to them. The digital ticketing system took all that away,” Johnson said. 

Not only is this process making it easier on administration and the community to keep everyone safe, but it’s an easy way to limit the exact number of fans admitted into the stadium. This online ticketing service is also being used for other fall sports activities including volleyball and boys soccer. 

“It also helps us manage capacity, which we have to strictly enforce. So it has been a game changer in that regard for streamlining some processes and having a platform to do all of the things we need to do because of the virus,” Johnson said.

To regulate attendance, each athlete or student involved in the event is designated one ticket that admits two people two days prior to gameday. All remaining tickets that are not sold by the day prior to the game are then sold in a first-come-first-serve manner for senior students.

“Although the events have been altered drastically, it is good that seniors are still given the opportunity to attend sporting events since it is their last year,” senior spectator Mason Heitmann said. 

In agreement with Heitmann, senior Hallie Scott is just happy that she still has the opportunity to make memories and support her team on Friday nights.

“Knowing that your friends and family are there to support you adds an extra effect to playing sports,” Scott said. “At least being able to have seniors at football games is amazing since we will be gone next year and not get the chance to go to these games [as a student] again.”

While taking in all of the little things, students, fans and athletes can do their part to ensure all of these events keep moving forward by practicing correct COVID-19 precautions. For all that are not able to attend in-person this season, live streams are being offered for every home game with a paid subscription through the National Federation of State High School Associations network (NFHS).