Joplin student-athletes and coaches adjust to new mask policy for summer workouts

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JOPLIN, MO. — As we inch closer to the beginning of the school year, local high school teams are doing what they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus and they’re also hoping it will help increase their chances of having a fall sports season.

Waking up early and doing drills out in the heat isn’t always pleasant. But, it’s something student-athletes and coaches at Joplin High School have come to expect with summer workouts.

Starting this week, wearing masks has also become a part of the routine.

The Joplin Athletic Department announced last week that it would be putting a new mask policy in place for those attending summer workouts.

“There is an inherent risk for athletics that goes beyond just the virus, but a lot of things,” said Joplin Athletic Director Matt Hiatt. “I think our job is to mitigate that risk and then when the city took the step to put the mask ordinance into effect, you know, I think it becomes our job to model that for our students and put policies in place to ask our students to do whatever’s necessary.”

While the main objective is to keep everyone safe, another driving force behind the masks is to increase the chances of actually being able to play this fall.

“I think they understand the importance of trying to mitigate the spread of the virus because you know, we want to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best situation possible to have a fall season once school starts,” Hiatt said.

While wearing a mask isn’t the most comfortable thing, head strength coach Michael Lawrence said it’s teaching their student-athletes a lesson that goes beyond the playing field.

“Overcoming adversity has been the theme this week,” said Lawrence. “We’ve talked to the kids a lot about the greatest generation of World War II and how they didn’t know how long the war was going to last and they had to sacrifice for the greater good. So, we’ve told the kids you’re sacrificing for the greater good.”

Mask or not, the student-athletes and coaches are just happy to be back out on the field again.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association released their guidelines and recommendations for opening fall sports on Wednesday. There have been reports that the organization plans to move forward with their original starting plan, which would allow teams to start fall practices on August 10.

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