High school, college sports return with mask mandate for many

High school sports for some schools in Washington will resume Monday for the first time since the pandemic started. 

Football will be the first to take the field, with other sports traditionally played in the fall set to follow next week. 

Along with this comes new safety guidelines, including student-athletes wearing masks. It's something we saw recently as Pac-12 volleyball started up again. 

The Washington State Cougars and the Washington Huskies are finally back on the volleyball court, but not before months of changes created a whole lot of questions and headaches. 

"Plans upon plans, upon plans," Huskies Volleyball head coach Keegan Cook said. "I’ve never spoken to my conference fellows as often as I have over this past four months ... lots of planning and lots of open-mindedness."

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Those changes include playing a fall sport in winter months and scheduling multiple matches on the same weekend with the same teams. But the most glaring change of all is the requirement that players wear masks. 

"Volleyball finds itself in an interesting space, where it’s a medium risk of transmission sport," Cook said. "And they all have different protocols that have changed over the last eight months to a year ... It’s all about staying safe ... we don’t want you to get sick." 

Still, it begs the question: Why are volleyball players wearing masks while athletes in other contact sports - like basketball - are exempt? 

A Pac-12 spokesman would only refer to its medical advisory committee, which concluded that volleyball is a sport that can be played at a high level in masks, while others cannot. 

"We want to keep everyone safe. We don’t want the virus to affect anyone, but I do think it’s difficult for these high level athletes to play in a mask, not only for breathing, but in volleyball, sometimes that ball is coming at you at 60 mph," said Cougars Volleyball Head Coach Jen Greeny. "It’s just something we have to get used to and we’re just thankful that we’re able to play."

As with other sports, conferences are handling Covid-19 adjustments differently, but no matter the timing, they're simply happy to get back on the court. 

"It feels like we’ve been building up and building up to it for so long, and kinda just waiting and seeing if it’s actually just going to happen and it finally does and it’s oh my gosh, it’s finally here and you can just take a breath and enjoy it for a second," Huskies setter Ell May Powell said.