Empty gyms are part of new normal
One of the better boys’ basketball games this season took place at Salisbury High School when Northwestern Lehigh came to visit last month. Unfortunately for the Falcons, a last second three-pointer didn’t drop and they fell 40-38 in the game.
The sad part is that very few people saw the game. Because of COVID restrictions, only the parents of senior players were on hand to sit in the stands and that was only because it was Senior Night. Normally, the seats would be empty except for cheerleaders.
“It’s a shame, because parents want to see their kids play and the kids get pumped up to play in front of people,” said Salisbury coach Jason Weaver. “It does take something away from the game, especially in a game like this where it’s close and comes down to the final shot. We get a lot of support from the fans and you really miss them when they’re not there.”
Players and coaches alike have had a lot to adjust to this season. In addition to the empty seats, everybody must remain masked throughout the game, including the players on the court. Even though the season has been very different, Weaver credits the players with playing as tough as ever through the new normal.
“I think they’ve adjusted really well to the masks and having to stay socially distanced when they’re not in the game,” said Weaver. “Some players have adjusted to the masks better than others and I think they all have so much focus on the game that they sometimes don’t realize that there isn’t anybody in the stands. Their attitude is that they just want to play and even if you take away the fans and make them wear masks, it’s still worth it to them – especially for the seniors – to get to play.”
In addition to the players, cheerleaders have been impacted. Imagine cheering to an empty gymnasium or in the case of Senior Night, just a handful of parents sitting in the seats with large gaps between them. Still, at high schools all around the Lehigh Valley, cheerleaders, players, coaches and officials are making the adjustments and doing their best to make things as normal as possible.
“I think that it’s good to have the cheerleaders and have the announcer and keep things as close to normal as possible,” said Weaver. “We have enough that is nowhere near normal, so it’s good to have those things.”
Schools still use an announcer to highlight who scored, who committed fouls and which team called the timeout. The national anthem is played before the game, just as normal. One other difference is that concession stands are no longer open because of COVID restrictions and the fact that there wouldn’t be anyone to purchase food or drinks. While that may seem like a small detail, those concession stands benefit the team’s Booster Club, which pays for some of the team’s events. Schools also lose revenue stream from ticket sales is no longer there.