CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Stadiums echoing with emptiness as cheerleaders cheer to no one: that’s what Chesapeake Public Schools varsity football games will be like this spring.
This season almost didn’t happen, though. The school division finally settled on a shortened six-game varsity season, played in spring instead of the fall.
Parents, while happy there is a season, are frustrated by the school division’s decision to not allow any spectators for the games.
WAVY News spoke with Jody Allen, whose son plays on the varsity team at Hickory High School. This is her son’s senior season.
“This year’s been hard enough on seniors and on parents and on everybody, and I understand that there’s no way to actually control that,” said Allen. “But we’re not asking you to change the rules. We’re just asking you to follow the rules that are already in place.”
By “rules” Allen is referring to Gov. Ralph Northam’s most recent executive order handed down Jan. 27. In section 13 of the order, Northam addresses recreation sports. The section states, “For sports played outdoors, spectators are limited to two guests per player.”
WAVY News reached out to Chesapeake school officials to ask why their rules were more restrictive than the governor’s.
They sent this explanation:
“The Governor’s order regarding fall sports spectators limits the number of those allowed to attend to two people per ‘player.’ There have been some variations of the interpretation of ‘players’ around the Commonwealth. Chesapeake is defining ‘players’ as those involved in the game or match itself. As such, allowing two spectators per player precludes the participation of other students such as band members and cheerleaders. In the interest of having as many students involved as possible, Chesapeake is eliminating spectators at most fall sporting events so that the capacity exists for these students to be involved. The number of cheerleaders and band members and their coaches and directors is being limited. Some fall sports are not played on Chesapeake Public Schools property. Golf and Cross Country are examples. Players in these sports and those who play in other venues outside Chesapeake Public Schools’ property will be governed by the policies of those individual venues.”
The division is offering a livestream of football games. But the parents we spoke with said while livestream is OK for some other sports, football is by nature a dangerous game. If their child gets seriously hurt in a game, they want to be there.
“That’s your heart out there on the field,” explained Mandy Wettstein, mother of a varsity football player. “To have to watch your heart out there taking a hit on a livestream like how do you ask a parent to do that?”
Fellow parent Jody Allen agreed.
“When these kids take a hit and get hurt, I don’t want to be on the other end of a livestream hoping he’s OK,” said Allen.
In the end all these parents say they want is common sense.
“Football is played outside and these football stadiums are plenty big enough for us to be 6 feet apart, for us to wear masks,” said Allen. “Whatever it is they ask. we just want to be there.”
“Common sense should prevail here. It makes absolutely no sense at all,” added Wettstein. “I hope you let me come watch my boy play football. That’s what I hope.”