NEISD athletics adapt to a season affected by COVID

With school board approval and UIL guidelines, the Jags are back on the field and on the court, gearing up for their fall 2020 seasons.

“We’re expecting every sport this year to have some little tweak to it that will make it a little bit different than what you see in the past,” NEISD Athletics Director Kelly Parker said. “Of course the rules are the same, the game is the same, it’s just the look of the stadiums and gyms look different.”

Fans will soon be welcome at the NEISD athletic facilities – with modifications of course.

“I think if we can just give them a feel then it will feel a little bit of normalcy. It’s not going to look the same, unfortunately. We got things we have to do in the stadiums and the gyms to make sure everybody’s safe,” Parker said.

NEISD athletes have already been following their new guidelines which start with a daily screening routine.

“It’s mandatory that all of our athletes and coaches have to self screen themselves before they come up to the school for practice, strength and conditioning camps. They have to self screen and be honest about the results,” Parker said.

Parker along with the NEISD coaches has had to consider how each sport could be modified to make sure each program is following best practices.

“Well, when you’re inactive, you’re distancing, you should be 6-10 feet apart,” Parker said. “When you’re active you’re going to have to get close. Football is one of those where you will be bumping into one another, tennis is one where you can stay spaced out the whole time.”

And each sport presents its own set of challenges. Parker admitted that while sports like golf and swim are easier to manage than most, a sport like volleyball needs different solutions. Wearing a mask – even while playing – could be part of what is needed.

“Most of our athletes have chosen to wear a mask the entire time which is important. So, we encouraged them to do it. It’s an option to wear the masks during games,” Parker said. “For example, when the players and coaches show up to the football field they’ll all have their masks on the entire time. Once the game starts everybody on the sideline coaches, players, trainers and everybody that’s mandatory. When they go into the field to play it’s an option for them. They can keep the mask on or take the mask off.”

Parker knows that being active in a mask takes some practice but it can be done.

“I know that there are a lot of schools who started football already in the 4A levels and below and a lot of those teams are wearing the masks the entire time they never take them off,” Parker said. “It’s like getting in shape. You get used to having a mask on, learning to breathe with it and a lot of them have done that.”

At the same time, NEISD coaches are working to lead their athletes to good habits that keep the season going, no matter what.

“The thing we’ve been doing in all our campuses for the past month or two is trying to educate the kids and parents on the value of wearing a mask. Staying out of crowded places. If you go somewhere to eat, keep the mask on the entire time until you eat. Don’t go to these house parties, stay away from those areas. So, it’s really about education,” Parker said.

In the meantime, like all other public school employees, Parker is keeping an eye on the numbers and admits it’s become part of his daily routine.

“I’ve never looked at Metro Health data so much in my life and I pretty much look at it everyday now.” 


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