How Athletic Directors are Handling COVID-19

By: Benjamin Brown

With over 15,000 cases of COVID-19 in Tulsa County, reopening has been a long and arduous process for everyone, leaving us with many questions about how our lives will look going forward. Athletics at Jenks proved to be a small test group for what a larger reopening might look like when they started back up in June. 

Since the pandemic began, Tony Dillinham, the Jenks athletic director, has been working hard with the principal’s cabinet, the pandemic recovery task force, and other athletic directors to find the safest way for students to compete and train at school.

For students, this means getting used to new policies such as daily health forms, temperature checks, social distancing, and wearing masks. Masks are only to be worn when students are not being physically active, so students won’t be required to wear masks while they are playing or practicing, but would wear them during something such as a team meeting. 

Dillingham says that, throughout the summer, cases were kept to a minimum and the main reason people contracted COVID was from out of district events. 

The biggest danger facing athletics is the return to school. Contact tracing and social distancing were much easier when the only people you interacted with were your teammates, as opposed to thousands of other students at school. 

“I don’t think our process has changed from an athletic standpoint,” says Dillingham. “I think our workload may increase, simply because anytime you add more people the probability of incidents is greater.”

Dillingham isn’t the only one worried about the effect in person school will have on athletics. 

“I’ve suggested to my kids to socially distance as much as possible,” says Tanna Smith, head volleyball coach. “If they have an opportunity in the classroom to be the furthest away from other kids, do it.”

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, athletic staff like Tony Dillingham and Tanna Smith are staying positive. Dillingham says that he’s very happy with students’ commitment to wearing masks and following policies, and Smith says her students have a great attitude about following protocol. 

“We feel really blessed,” says Smith. “I was optimistic about the season anyway, but there’s a lot of coaches that were very pessimistic. There’s a lot of people that were surprised we made it this far.” 

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