The spread of Covid-19 has affected almost every aspect of everyday life, and sports fans around the world have suffered through a sportsless summer with the postponement of the NBA and MLB. With school now back in session, the question arises on how Covid-19 will affect McIntosh’s fall sports season, especially as the first football game is Sept. 4.
“It is our goal to ensure the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and spectators,” McIntosh athletic director Leon Hammond said.
McIntosh’s protocol on spectator attendance for stadium events includes football, softball and volleyball. These new guidelines could change based on updates from the CDC. the Georgia Department of Health, the GHSA and local officials.
A number of changes are coming to the stadium spectator experience. First, masks are “strongly recommended” for outdoor events (football and softball) and mandatory for indoor events (volleyball), all concessions will be limited to pre-packed food items and each individual has to stay six feet away from another individual or family group.
“We are taking social distancing seriously, as we have designated areas in the gym and football stadium for spectators to sit, while still allowing for groups to adequately distance themselves from others,” Hammond said. “Our administrative team and police officers will be circulating through the stands throughout the duration of the game. Any individual, adult or student, who refuses to comply or impedes on the personal space of another spectator unwarrantedly, will be escorted out of the stadium. We hope no situations ever reach that point, but we value the safety of our students, coaches, and fans above everything else in times like these.”
“We are appreciative of the support we have received from the GHSA and FCBOE as it relates to the new spectator guidelines that ensure the safety of our students, athletes, teachers, fans and community,” McIntosh head football Lee Belknap said. “Without the proper planning and support of these organizations we would not be able to give our student-athletes the experience of playing high school sports during COVID 19. We are very grateful.”
This limited seating is why the Athletic Department strongly encourages football fans to purchase tickets online via www.gofan.co (that’s .co, not .com) as cash will not be exchanged for tickets at the gate, however, debit and credit cards will be accepted.
That limited seating also means the temporary removal of the student section.
“Due to social distancing guidelines,” Hammond said in an email. “We will not have a student section.”
Senior Gabe Leedy is this year’s student section leader. “I am really disappointed that we won’t be able to follow the tradition of MHS football games,” Leedy said. “I will miss chanting on my school’s football team with all of my friends and classmates.”
Spectators will also be expected to stay in the stands through the duration of the game. Groups of people are not allowed to gather near the concession stand.
Students and other spectators are not the only groups affected by COVID-19 protocols. Instead of having their own section in the stands, The Spirit of McIntosh marching band will be seated on the far end of the track near the scoreboard.
“This season, while it has proven to be challenging, has shown us better ways to approach certain aspects of marching band,” Spirit of McIntosh director Barbara Baker said. “Of course there are things that we miss and look forward to returning but it has given us a great appreciation for both music and team activities on campus. There are some things that you just cannot replicate while there are other things that have been enhanced. Bottom line is the band will play on!”
The McIntosh Chiefs kick off their football season on Friday, Sept. 4 at home against Luella High School.