The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) recently released its guidelines for the spring track and field season, and officials recommended that all student-athletes wear masks during competition. While the NHIAA recommended this policy for its athletes, it was not mandatory, and officials left the final decision to individual school boards and athletic directors. At Pembroke Academy, the athletic director chose to enforce masks during all competition (practices and meets).
Brad Keyes, the track and field coach at Pembroke disagreed with his boss. In fact, he was so upset that he sent the AD an open letter. Here are some of his words: “I’ll come straight to the point. I will not put kids on the track and tell them to run any races while wearing masks. This recommendation is not backed up by science”… This is not about protecting the athletes, or even their families. I will not stand up in front of the kids and lie to them and tell them that these masks are doing anything worthwhile out in an open field with wind blowing and the sun shining.” Keyes ended his letter with, “Fire me if you must.”
Within 24 hours, Keyes was fired. There were other area track coaches who agree with Coach Keyes. Stan Lyford, another local track coach, said “Brad Keyes is not alone on the mask issue. Everyone I talk to thinks that wearing masks while running is a bad idea.” However, these track coaches decided to follow the mask policies of their AD.
Joe’s Perspective: I have consistently said that children with a 99.98% survival rate (check the CDC website) should not be wearing masks in athletics. I think masks should be voluntary. I don’t think it is necessary health-wise and I think it is dangerous to wear masks when you are exerting yourself. As a former track and cross country runner in high school and college, I can tell you that oxygen flow is pretty important. I ran 1:59.1 in the half mile several times, but I could not run 1:59.0. The reason was not tired legs. It was due to the amount of oxygen my body could pump through my blood. I guarantee that a mask does not help this process. So, I support Coach Keyes in his stance on this issue. I hope I would have the conviction to tell my AD that I could not enforce his policy and offer my resignation.
As an aside, the New Hampshire governor dropped their mask mandate this week, 10 days after Keyes was fired.
Your Turn: If you were responsible for making the mask policy for the athletes in your state, what would be your policy? Be specific. Would you make it different for indoor and outdoor sports, contact vs. non-contact…