IHSA lifts mask restrictions for some sports

Low contact sports in Illinois no longer have to wear masks while playing, and coaches and athletes are already seeing the difference it makes



Morgan Sellek catches a throw at second base during a varsity softball game at West Campus on April 14. Softball players are among those who are allowed to play without masks, according to guidance from the IHSA.

Mackenzie Sroka, Staff Writer

As the runner makes the final lap around the track they push to get in front of the other runners. She breathes hard and thinks about finishing the race with a win.

After the race while she cools down, slowing down her breathing, she thinks about how much easier that race was to run and how she got a better time than normal. She puts her mask back on after the cool down, and realizes her running is so much easier without the mask on because she can focus easier and breathe in and out easier.

This is now possible since the IHSA changed the guidelines for certain sports.

Some sports are allowed to now wear masks due to some guidelines being changed. According to Barry Burmeister, the athletic director at MCHS, the IDPH and the IHSA changed their guidelines on certain sports allowing them to play without masks.

Only low contact sports have lifted mask restrictions. These sports, according to Burmeister, are baseball, softball, boys tennis, boys and girls track and field and wrestling do not have to wear masks when they are on the playing field. 

Sports still have to wear masks during certain times, but while playing they don’t need to wear it.

“The IHSA only mandates that baseball players wear masks when they are in dugouts or can’t maintain distance from each other,” explained Brain Rockweiler, the varsity baseball coach. Unless they are actively planning, they are expected to wear masks. 

Not having to wear a mask is very beneficial to the players and sometimes the game. “In order to recover properly after a run, a runner needs proper oxygen intake, when we have our masks down it becomes hard to breathe so not having to wear them at all times makes sprinting easier,” described Joseph Hissem a member of the boys track team.

Others say having to wear a mask makes it very difficult to maintain a high performance.

“Not having to wear a mask while I run I think just helps the overall performance during hard workouts or races,” said Carlos Montes, another boys track runner, “especially when you’re towards the end and the mask would just go into our mouths while we’re inhaling really deep. It just created a big distraction that inhibited our ability to perform at our highest level, especially since distance running in track is all about lung capacity and respiratory fitness.”

Another bonus of not having to wear a mask during a game is communication.

“I can speak a lot more clear when calling out plays from behind the plate” explained Trevor Rockweiler, a boys varsity baseball player. Communication is key in a lot of games, but with a mask on words can become very muffled, so not having to wear a mask helps prevent miscommunication. 

Looking ahead in the season it is very beneficial too, especially with very warm days. Kyle Funkhouser, the varsity boys tennis coach, described that wear masks towards the end of the spring would have been very difficult. The heat makes it more difficult to run and with a mask on it would have been very difficult, so the new guidelines are going to help in the teams future games. 

The athletes that no longer have to wear masks have seen improvement, and are predicting it for the future too. Not having to wear a mask is a lot easier for a lot of sports, but only low contact sports get to not wear masks. Since not wearing and wearing a mask can still risk covid, they still have most of the safety precautions in place.