Coronavirus News: LI student athletes adjust to 'new normal' of school sports during pandemic

COVID-19 News and Information
MANHASSET, Long Island (WABC) -- Officials on Long Island have taken dramatic steps to keep school sports up and running safely amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and student athletes are adapting to the new normal as best they can. But it's not without challenges.

Big changes include mandatory masks, increased ventilation, set practicing partners, no spectators, and a very condensed season.

Varsity wrestling in Manhasset, where the student athletes and their coaches have been "wrestling" with far more than their opponents, now has pods drawn for 6 feet of separation, an open door, set partners, and masks under their head gear.

It's not easy, but it's worth it.

"If you take the mask off, the opponent from another school may not wanna wrestle you," Manhasset Athletic Director Jim Amen said. "So that's something you have to deal with also."

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Basketball will also be played without family members and fans, but there will be cameras to live-stream the games. But these are only a few of the guidelines for high-risk school sports.

In Manhasset, the athletes get a weekly mandatory PCR tests for COVID-19, and all student athletes must do remote learning until the end of their shortened season.

For senior Emma LoPinto, the joy of this game makes it worthwhile.

"Amazing," she said. "I mean, I waited since last March, it was the first thing on my mind."

For varsity wrestler Jack McCusker, wearing a mask is the least of it.

"This year, we're missing the state tournament, and I had ambitions to be a state champion and a county champion," he said. "So that was definitely tough."

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But overall, Manhasset is doing well compared to others. So far in Nassau County, 10 basketball games have already been postponed due to COVID concerns. And in Suffolk County, more than a dozen high school teams are reportedly in quarantine.

Safety off the court is also a concern, and all of these athletes are made well aware of how they need to behave outside of school.

So while the girls' basketball team has only 11 players instead of 33, there's also the upside. They're learning not to look back anymore and instead to embrace these moments, day by day.

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