Changes in attendance policies affect athletes and fans alike

Photo by Camden Cohn
The Spartan Volleyball team must wear masks while practicing as well as playing

Across the state of Nebraska, as well as the country, fall sports look much different. Gone are the packed stadiums and gyms, the bickering between student sections and battling of the bands. Football, Volleyball, Softball, Cross Country, Girls Golf, and Boys Tennis all look much different. This year due to COVID-19, LPS has created a set of attendance restrictions at sporting events and activities. Right now according to the Lincoln Public Schools website, events have a limited attendance of four immediate family members of athletes, coaches, band members and cheerleaders/dance. No students are allowed as spectators at LPS hosted events and competitions unless they are family or covering the game for a class such as journalism or yearbook. Face coverings are required for everyone in attendance and families are asked to stay six feet apart to maintain social distancing guidelines.

These guidelines are likely to be in effect within LPS for the time being but that’s not how it is everywhere. The Metro Conference in the Omaha Metro recently announced their updated attendance guidelines that included up to six tickets per family and a new idea that appeals to some students. Seniors that attend a school affiliated with the Metro Conference are now able to attend athletic events and visiting schools are able to send up to 100 seniors to the game.

According to Lincoln East Athletic Director Zach Limbach, it would take a lot of collaboration to change the current attendance guidelines within LPS.

“LPS works directly with the Lancaster County Health Department,” Limbach said. “If we want to do something, we work hand in hand with them.”

Say for example, LPS wants to allow 100 students to attend every home game such as the Metro Conference, they would need to get the Health Department’s permission to do that and how to do it safely before proceeding.

Limbach is skeptical when it comes to allowing students into Heartland Athletic Conference or HAC contests that includes LPS schools updating their attendance policies to match that of the Metro.

“There’s always a chance, as a conference, it has been discussed but nothing decided,” he said.

Schools in the HAC such as Kearney and Pius X have allowed a select number of students in already, but Limbach says that they have gotten negative feedback from parents and other community members as to students not wearing masks at all times or staying socially distanced. He believes that there’s some pressure from both sides as to students wanting to go to the games and not miss out on cheering on friends, but then pressure from parents and others to allow no one in due to fear of community spread.

As for what Limbach would say to the fans and students that are unable to attend games at this time but want to.

“We’re doing everything in our power to allow the athletes to have a great experience,” Limbach said. “We want a safe environment that allows us to continue to have contests. Our number one goal has just been to provide a great experience to our student athletes and try to do that to the best of our ability.”

The Lincoln East Athletic Director continued by stating that East has done much more live streaming of games this season now that LPS has a partnership with KLKN to livestream varsity football contests and East has established a Youtube Channel that works with Hudl to livestream there as well.

Although COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into everyone’s lives, high schoolers within LPS have been granted an opportunity to continue participating in athletics in a year when many things are anything but normal. Athletes often look to their sports as a getaway from the craziness that is life and have been able to do that thanks to the protocols and guidelines within LPS. “I look at everyday as an opportunity, we have to be happy that we have a chance,” Limbach said. “It’s important to have that perspective for both families and students too.”