Could Idaho high school volleyball team’s mask wearing practices be a guide perhaps for Washington?

Good Tuesday morning. Nothing of note this morning so we want to offer some discussion this morning about something that we saw watching a game from Idaho last night that might be something to look at for our high school sports restart as Washington continues its fight against COVID-19.
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In our viewing online of high school games from Idaho, Utah and Montana, one thing we have seen a lot of is teams, when on the sideline, wearing face coverings. But until last night, not in competition. Well, one Idaho high school’s volleyball team has taken the face covering mandate to a new level – they are wearing them in competition, and that is what we want to discuss this morning.

The game we are talking about this morning is the girls’ volleyball game between Mountain View High School, from the Boise suburb of Meridian, and Wood River High School, from Hailey, which is located at the south end of the Sun Valley resort region in the central part of the Gem State. Mountain View took the match in four sets, but it was Wood River who earned our notice because it was that squad whose players we saw were wearing their masks while competing.

Here is the game on demand from NFHS Network – you’ll need an NFHS Network login and subscription in order to view the game and see it for yourself.

So could such take shape for volleyball here in Washington as part of the high school sports restart after the first of the year? Well, the youth sports restart plan that was implemented last week by Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health had no mandates for mask-wearing by athletes, either on the bench or in competition, likely leaving that up to individual youth sports organizations, school districts and local county health departments to decide upon. With the mandate for masks in effect statewide in businesses, such a mandate likely could also apply to schools and as such would presumably cover this. So the chance is there that players could be required to mask up in competition.

The mask-wearing for the Idaho team appears to be district policy; according to Blaine County’s school district, which Wood River is part of, their expectations require all students and staff to wear masks whenever they are in public, and of course that was the case last night for the game. Blaine County, the central Idaho county which the school is located in, was one of the state’s earliest COVID hotspots, but saw its case count level off over the summer, now, according to the state, with fewer than 800 total cases. But their case numbers are increasing, and have been for a couple of weeks, so policies such as the ones listed here are going to be critical for the schools to be able to operate effectively as the pandemic continues and the winter approaches, one which could be a challenge especially if the Sun Valley ski resort, which is the county’s primary economic driver, is either closed or has reduced operations due to virus concerns.

Additionally, the team had to wear masks while on the long bus ride, a bus ride which each way ran a good 2 1/2 hours, also as per district policy. So the team for this trip was masked up perhaps for almost 12 hours straight. A lot of time to be masked but those are the rules.

The issue that high schools in Washington will want to look at, and perhaps talk with their counterparts in Blaine County about, is how mask-wearing by players in competition affects them physically; with volleyball being a fairly active, physical sport, athletes are likely to be breathing a little faster and heavier during competition, something which could be impacted some by having a covering on. Of note is that the face masks the players from Wood River wore appear to have been brought by the players themselves; it didn’t appear to us the masks were team-issued (with a school logo or all the same color). So schools might be able to avoid that expense if such a requirement were issued here in Washington for volleyball, but a team-issued mask might be something that could be included with a uniform for players.

Some things to think about of course this morning. So what say you? Have a watch of the game last night at the above link – you’ll want to scroll ahead to around the 40 minute mark to see the actual game – then tell us what you think. Do you support the school district’s rules on face masks which seem to have been the driver for the team to wear them during competition, and if such a requirement were to be part of Washington high school volleyball’s restart plan, would you support it? Let us know. Email us at snovalleysports@gmail.com or DM us at our Twitter this morning @snovalleysports.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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