Sports are a communal experience.
From the interplay between teammates to the cheers from the stands, they can unite people around a common goal.
During a time when people are encouraged to remain separated and the stands have been left empty, that sense of community has been fractured. But things are looking up for the 2020-2021 basketball season at Moorestown High School. Gov. Phil Murphy gave the greenlight for limited fan attendance and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association followed that by sanctioning limited attendance and indoor and outdoor sporting events.
“We hope this order marks another positive step in the return to play,” the association statement reads. “At this time, we urge parents to give our member schools time to review the governor’s order and determine both overall feasibility and a specific process for increasing occupancy as outlined.”
As it stands, every player is handed two guest passes per game for a parent or guardian. Parents are required to wear masks and must present their pass at the door to gain entrance into the gymnasium. They must exit soon as a game is over.
Because of spacing restrictions, only home-team parents are allowed to attend. The gym’s bleachers are pulled out and guests are seated 6 feet apart in pairs. Shawn Counard, director of athletics for the Moorestown Township Public Schools, said at present, 24 pairs of parents at a time can fit.
Prior to the recent development, no fans were allowed and the district was streaming games so families could cheer on players from home.
Players were spaced 6 feet apart on the sidelines and required to wear a mask. Coaches and event staff wore masks, and only essential personnel were allowed into the gymnasium.
Counard said the district didn’t receive any negative feedback about the prior restrictions. Parents understood, and as long as the livestream worked and they didn’t have any technical issues, they were still happy to have some form of access to the games, he added.
While the environment was certainly different, Counard believes it didn’t diminish the vigor with which students played.
“I think the kids played hard no matter what,” he noted. Though he concedes there’s something to be said for the enthusiasm fans lend to the environment.
“In certain close games, it’s good to have fans there, hearing loud noises, stomping and clapping in the bleachers, that extra element of noise and emotions,” Counard said.
“In close games, it’s nice to have them there.”