Arts and Sports: Who Can Compete?

How+the+City+High+Music+and+Sports+departments+have+adjusted+to+COVID-19.+

Jesse Hausknecht-Brown

How the City High Music and Sports departments have adjusted to COVID-19.

Rebecca Michaeli and Ruth Meehan

The normally bustling auditorium has remained empty. The usually full stands filled with sports fans have been left bare. Due to COVID-19, the way we experience games and performances has drastically changed. Sports teams have been able to have games and meets while all curricular and extracurricular performing arts live performances have been canceled or postponed. 

“It was very disappointing,” Tyler Hagy, City High choir director, said. “All of us as music teachers got into the profession because we wanted to make music. Knowing that some of the concerts that I love like the masterworks concert that was scheduled for last December wouldn’t happen was very sad.”

New regulations have been advised to keep students safe while participating in activities. Protocols determining the health and safety procedures for sports teams at City High are suggested by the Iowa School Athletic Association that governs boys and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Association that governs girls. The state of Iowa is one of the only states that has two separate athletic associations.

“Each governing body puts out some direction around [mask policies]. For everything that’s curricular, during the school day, masks are required 100% of the time. The only time that there can be exceptions to that is things like during a competition,” John Bacon, City High Principal, said. “Once you’re actually in competition, it becomes optional and [masks] are not required by the state. If it’s practice time, and you’re not directly competing, then you are supposed to have the mask on.”

While the Iowa athletic associations have implemented some mandatory guidelines, most protocols are up to the school and team’s discretion.

“It’s up to both the [state and district] levels to decide. The state said ‘here’s what we think should happen’, and then it’s really up to each district. Mr. Hansen, our athletic director, meets with not only schools in our district, but also in our conference,” Lynsey Barnard, girls basketball coach, said. 

Basketball players wear a mask during practice, but a majority of athletes take off their masks while playing. Whether or not fans are allowed at games is a school district’s decision. 

“We have our masks on the whole time in practice and lifting, but when we get to games and we’re playing, some people will choose to take them off,” Andie Westlake ’22 said. “Having no fans is definitely weird. Usually, we’re used to having friends, family members, cheerleaders, and the dance team, so it’s a lot different playing with fewer people.”

The boys wrestling season will conclude on February 23, 2021, at their state tournament. The wrestling team will attend nine wrestling meets total before the season is over, while in a normal year, they would participate in forty meets. Masks are supposed to be worn during warm ups, but similar to basketball players, wrestlers take them off while competing.

“One of the most frustrating things for me as a coach is that every district has handled this differently. I feel like there are different rules for different schools. I wish there was more of a top-down approach, more guidance from the Iowa High School [Athletic] Association saying ‘this is how it is handled. This is the way it is for everybody in the state’,” Cory Connell, head wrestling coach at City High School, said.

Mia DePrenger ‘22 plays volleyball and also participates in the 4th Avenue Jazz Company show choir, so has experienced how both departments have been affected by COVID-19.

“Not being able to practice [volleyball] at the full potential we could’ve in the beginning kind of sucked. But then we all got pretty used to it, and it really felt like a normal [volleyball] season,” DePrenger said.

While sports teams have been able to compete in games and meets, keeping in mind health and safety protocol, show choir and other performing arts have not been able to hold any performances in-person.

“I feel like what makes a show choir season are the competitions that everyone looks forward to. Not having them makes it feel super different, and we’re not where we’re usually at during the season. Usually, we have the entire show put together, and we’re just fine-tuning things,” DePrenger said. “It’s very slow going, and sometimes gets a little frustrating.”

City High choir director Tyler Hagy said that he and other music educators started to see performance cancelations coming early this school year.

“I think we saw the writing on the wall, in a sense. At the time we had no clue how long the vaccines would take to be made and the mitigations that we would need to do. Knowing too that we would be in this kind of hybrid model and not really be able to meet as a whole ensemble at any given time. The reality of that made it kind of clear that probably a concert or performance would not be viable,” Hagy said.

Even though some things about sporting events have been different, players have still been able to compete. Performing arts students have not had the same experience. There has not been one live performance for any of the curricular or extracurricular ensembles since March 2020. Bacon says that these decisions are also impacted by an organization.

“There are Iowa High School music guidelines. That organization shared with schools their recommendations and guidance for music events. However, it’s a little different in the sense that it’s not a formal governing body. My understanding of the music group is that it’s more of a supportive organization that provided some guidance and advice, but they’re necessarily hard and fast rules. There is still some discretion for local school districts to decide what they want to do in relation to music events,” Bacon said.

When asked why sports are able to have games unmasked while all performing arts performances have been shut down, Hagy said that there isn’t a clear answer.

“I don’t really have a good answer for that, and I don’t know that anybody does at the district level of the building level. I would say from my own personal opinion standpoint is that they should not be holding games. I have not yet heard from anybody that I have spoken to any reasonable rationale why it is the case that games are occurring,” Hagy said. “I also don’t think we should be having performances right now. It shouldn’t be that they are doing this thing that maybe isn’t so great so let’s do our thing that’s not so great either. I think that all of it [games and performances] shouldn’t be happening at this moment so that in future times, hopefully relatively we should be able to do some of those things.” 

While Hagy is adamant that sports as well as performing arts shouldn’t be in full swing at the moment, he understands that there may be factors influencing decision making. Especially in regards to sports and performing arts.

“I would say that the stakeholders in those different activities or events seem to have somewhat of different priorities. Whether that is right or wrong I don’t know. All I have is my own opinion. I believe that what we have done on the music side is to try and make things as safe as possible while providing as normal experiences as possible,” Hagy said. I don’t think that necessarily there is malicious intent behind the decisions that have been made but I do think that the stakeholders who have been asked their opinions about these decisions have said different things. Therefore, the decision making has been different than a consistent message essentially between athletics and music along with other performing arts.”

While there is some inconsistency between sports and the performing arts this year, Bacon ensures that the issue is being addressed.

“We do want to make sure we’re giving kids every opportunity while also doing what’s right and what’s safe. I do recognize that there’s a little discrepancy between athletic events that are happening and concerts that are not happening,” Bacon said. “This is a topic that is being discussed by the school district and a conversation that’s happening right now.”