Student spectators invited back to sporting events following COVID-related restrictions


Cooper Newfield

Senior Coleman Hostage leads the student section at the boys’ basketball game on Dec. 17, 2021.

Grace Bouzan, Staff Writer

Starting this weekend, student fans are invited back to Midland-Wachusett league games after over a month of being banned from games in an attempt to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

On Dec. 21, the district medical team and advisors banned spectators, except for family members, from sporting events after 151 positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed throughout the school community. Athletic Director Mike Mocerino said the Midland-Wachusett league’s decision made by the Midland Wachusett League to ban fans from all league games since the start of January was due to the regional COVID case up-tick over the winter holidays.

“We understand [restricting student fans from attending games] is not favorable and can lead to some frustration; however, our new priorities are the health and safety of our students and coaches,” Mocerino said. ”Our faculty and staff are doing everything we can to keep classes in person and then keep our teams from missing big chunks of the year due to a COVlD-19 spread.”

Sporting events during the 2020-2021 school year were mainly spectator-free due to COVID precautions. But this school year, spectators were allowed at all athletic events up until winter break.

For many students, attending ARHS sporting events is a huge part of their high school experience, being a place where they can express their school spirit and hang out with friends.

Mocerino values spectators at sporting events and believes that it is fantastic opportunity for students to show off their school spirit. 

“We had a successful fall, returning back to normalcy,” Mocerino said. “We always want our students to have the ability to play in front of their peers.” 

Students’ first opportunity to cheer on ARHS teams will be Sunday, Jan. 30 when the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams face off against Nashoba at the TD Garden

In Principal Sean Bevan’s Jan. 25 email to students and staff, he noted, “it’s critical that, as a school community, we employ the mitigation strategies that we know are effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19. To that end, all mask mandates, as directed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), and local health departments will remain in effect, and strict adherence to these mandates will be enforced during athletic contests.”

Bevan said the MIAA provides rules and expectations for school districts to follow, and the administration needs to take those safety procedures into account. Bevan was glad that fans were able to attend events for most of this school year and is happy that the recent restriction has been lifted. 

“I think spectators are one of the things that make sports enjoyable,” Bevan said. 

Student athletes have been negatively impacted by the lack of student spectators at their sporting events. Senior and boys’ hockey captain Tommy Hauck is disappointed, but because there were no fans allowed at last years’ games, he is accustomed to not having spectators.

“[The boys’ hockey team is] used to it, considering that last year we had a whole season with no spectators,” Hauck said. “I feel like spectators can greatly affect the momentum of the game.” 

Sophomore Tighe Clark attended some football games in the fall, and he believes that there should always be spectators at sporting events. 

“The fans can really change the course of the game just by their energy,” Clark said. “As an athlete myself when the crowd is really loud, it is one of the most amazing experiences with so many people going crazy…If there was no one there, it would almost feel pointless to play.”

According to Mocerino, medical advisors and the Midland Wachusett officials understand the recent student frustrations. 

“[We hope spectators] can be there to support our student athletes for the remainder of the season in a safe way,” Mocerino said. ”[The advisory team] understands the frustration; a lot of people want to ensure that our student athletes can compete in activities they enjoy while still having the experience performing in front of supporters.”