'Have to wear masks:' Wisconsin high school athletes adapt amid COVID-19 so there can be a season

Across all fall high school sports, the message has been the same -- adapt so there can be a season.  

"What we do, it’s going to affect the other sports, as well, so we have to be really careful, but just enjoy the moment," said Kate Wade, Homestead High School senior.

Practice began on Aug. 17 for sports considered lower risk.

At Homestead High School, one of the premier girls tennis teams in the state is settling into their new normal.

"It's been an adjustment period," said Jackie Egelhoff, Homestead girls tennis coach. "Everyone is getting used to it and it is working pretty well I think."

There’s hand sanitizer outside, and the girls are expected to social distance with masks on if they’re not on the court, but there’s been one bigger change.

"We all have our own balls, and then on each of your tennis balls, you write your initials so that you don't mix them up with other people's, and try not to touch anyone else’s tennis balls," said Megan Lucyshyn, Arrowhead High School senior.

These changes don’t just affect the players.

"The one challenging thing that I am finding is that when you are coaching, you look for facial expression," said Ruth Ann Ahnen, Arrowhead High School girls swimming coach. "It seems quieter in that regard."

Meanwhile, the Arrowhead girls swim team has had an added advantage.

"I swim on the club team, which is also based out of Arrowhead, so I have been swimming with these changes since the beginning of June," said Emmaleigh Zietlow, Arrowhead High School senior. "We arrive at the pool around 10 minutes before practice starts, head out that other door so we can get the next group in. We walk in in a line six-feet apart and then stop on the dots around here."

"The girls have no use of the locker room at all," said... "We ask a health question when they come on the deck to make sure everyone is healthy before they go into the pool."

In the water, the chlorine levels also had to be raised slightly per their pool guidelines, and social distancing is still the key.

"It's just a lot of spreading out, more so like trying to keep everyone distanced from each other and that everyone stays safe," said Ethan Ferger, Oak Creek high school senior. 

Back on land, Ferger realizes how lucky the Oak Creek boys and girls cross country teams are. They’re already a sport that can spread out.

"Right away, we started off splitting into smaller groups just to limit the spread in case that happens, and now have to wear masks," said Ferger.

Those masks are required at the start and finish of a race, so to help make it easier to pull their mask up and down when they run, the Knights are also getting neck gaiters, and so far, it’s been a smooth transition.

"It’s really not that different," said Brooke St. Germaine, Oak Creek High School senior. "I feel like the only different thing is not running in big groups, which I don't mind. We all run with people our times are closer to."

Perhaps the sport where social distancing is easiest is girls golf, and the Brookfield Central squad is doing just that. To stay safe, they’re keeping their groupings the same, and are not sharing any equipment. Travel wise, there’s no carpooling allowed either. 

So with competition already a go for girls golf and tennis, and slated to begin shortly for swimming and cross country, the hope is that it stays throughout the fall season.