High school basketball players in Colorado will have to wear masks during play this season, confirmed Ryan Casey, director of digital media for the Colorado High School Activities Association, on Monday.
The news was first announced by Benjamin Parris, chief of content for Cherry Creek Sports Network, on Twitter.
Additional announcements confirmed by Casey include a 14-game regular season (with 12 games for junior varsity), postseason bracket for 1A through 3A will be 24 teams (down from 32 teams), and 32 playoff teams in 4A and 5A (down from 48 teams).
According to Parris, CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann said the frequency at which college athletes are tested (3-14 times a week) is the reason they can play without masks. The same frequency isn’t present at the prep level.
The Montrose High School boys basketball team had already started participating in basketball activity with masks prior to Thanksgiving, head coach Ryan Voehringer said on Monday. With basketball an indoor activity, Voehringer anticipated the requirement would be announced this season, and supports it with the team anxious to finally play.
“I’ll support that as long as we're playing,” Voehringer said.
Preparation like conditioning and getting in shape while wearing a mask will be of focus for the team the next few weeks as they prepare for the start of the season. Traditionally a five to six man rotation in recent years at MHS, it’s likely the rotation will need to stretch deeper into the bench, Voehringer said, due to the mask requirement.
“It's going to be different, but everybody in the state is dealing with it,” he said. “... Kids want to play and the coaches want to coach.”
For now, the team plans to wear cloth masks braced with the team logo, or blue disposable surgical masks.
For Luke Hotto, who is entering his junior season and coming off a season in which he was named the Southwestern League Player of the Year, the masks took awhile to get accustomed to, but the adjustment has been easier as of late.
“It's definitely a struggle to wear them,” he said on Monday, “but I'd rather wear them and play than not wear them and not have a season.”
He said the masks are starting “to feel a bit better” due to having worn them for several sessions of basketball activity, and prefers the blue surgical masks as those seem to work best.
Ten months removed from playing in a competitive game, Hotto says the players are on board regarding mask wearing during games and are eager to get the season started.
“It's definitely worth it, and for the seniors like Jordan (Jennings) to get a season,” he said.
A question that swirled in those states before play began was the concern about potential risk and player safety - would a mask allow enough proper ventilation if a player exerted energy at full force?
But, according to numerous health experts, the masks present few risks while playing, though air flow could be restricted. Data is limited, though, as studies haven’t been conducted due to the pandemic’s safety protocols.
Rather, a player’s ability to endure long stretches of play may be hindered, and fatigue could set in quicker.
Montrose will have a few weeks to grow more comfortable with the masks as the season doesn’t officially start until Jan. 18, the first day of tryouts.
“As of right now, we’re just happy that we are going to have a season,” Voehringer said.
Official details on Season B, including for other sports like wrestling and girls swimming, should be released before the start of the season as CHSAA staff complete virtual seminars this week with administrators and coaches across the state.