2021 basketball; playing through a pandemic

COVID-19 impact on amateur basketball

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Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons, “basketball on a court in a gym” by franchiseopportunitiesphotos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Ashley Ingram, Author

The 2020-2021 college basketball regular season begins on November 25. Originally planned to start on November 10, members of the NCAA Division I Council pushed the season back due to COVID-19. This year, there will be no games during the preseason, but practices may begin on October 14 and the preseason will conclude on November 24. Players and coaches will be tested regularly and will not be required to observe social distancing and masking on the court or bench. Like the NCAA, other associations and leagues are delaying basketball. In local Prince William County, the Prince William County School Board plans to start the basketball season on December 7.   

The NCAA will be taking certain safety and health precautions during the season. Due to the high risk of COVID-19 from traveling and contact, the NCAA recommends that teams are tested three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Travel safety precautions include prepackaged meals, different ways of travel such as private cars, and smaller travel parties. The American East Conference Commissioner, Amy Huchthausen, said, “We are universally committed to responsibly prepare an environment and schedule that safely positions each institution and the conference for basketball competition.” The safety and health precautions are necessary to ensure that the athletes, coaches, and institutions are comfortable with returning to basketball.  

This year, both Division One women’s and men’s basketball are assessing different scheduling options for games and championship tournaments. Women’s basketball is evaluating two scheduling options, while men’s basketball is considering three. The NCAA Vice President for women’s basketball, Lynn Holzman, stated, “As of today, we are planning and continue to plan to have our championship with the full field.” The NCAA men are also planning for championship tournament games. For a team to qualify for NCAA championship tournament selection, the team must play 13 games against D1 opponents. Season game schedules remain uncertain. 

Battlefield High School plans to follow safety guidelines similar to those of the NCAA. Battlefield High School Girl’s Junior Varsity Basketball coach, Brittany Magee, said, “If all goes as planned, our season will begin in December 2020. I assume we will need to keep in mind sanitation, social distancing, and masks when appropriate.” According to Coach Magee, Battlefield will take the necessary precautions to keep players safe and healthy. Coach Magee also stated, “From what I’ve seen during the off-season with AAU tournaments, players are not required to wear masks while playing; and benches, score tables, and balls are disinfected frequently. I expect the same protocol to be instilled during our season at Battlefield…” The NCAA is not enforcing masks during practice, but masks and other safety protocols are recommended off the court.   

The start of the 2020-2021 college basketball season will be unlike any other. With schedules still unclear and protocols for fans yet to be announced, the season will be dramatically different for student athletes, coaches, parents, and fans alike. Coach Magee said, “I’m glad we are able to adjust accordingly to keep sports alive for both the youth and adults.” Despite COVID-19 and so much uncertainty, it is safe to say that the players are ready to play.