Point Counter Point: Should Athletes Wear Masks?

Two editors debate whether the School’s dance team should be required to wear masks while practicing indoors.


Erika Sousa

The Benjamin School’s dance team, the Dazzlers, is required to wear masks at all times while practicing. Other sports teams, however, do not follow the same guidelines. The volleyball team, another indoor sport, did not wear masks.

Point by Sophia Liporace

There is no doubt that masks are an essential part of on-campus activities. Without them it would not be possible to continue in-person classes; however, are masks still crucial when it comes to sports?

With a successful start to their seasons, the football, volleyball, cross-country, and golf teams have all been working hard at their practices and games trying their best to make the most out of a season occurring during a pandemic, but not much has changed for the athletes since they have the privilege of being able to practice without masks.

In contrast, members of the School’s varsity dance team, the Dazzlers, have been exerting themselves for several hours a day, 6 days a week, with COVID-19 guidelines significantly more strict than any other sport: having to wear masks at all times and being unable to touch. 

It could be argued that the Dazzlers practice inside, whereas golf and football practices are held in a wide open space, but that would then bring up the question of whether or not volleyball players should have to practice with masks since they are also practicing indoors. Also, the dance team consists of a tight-knit group of nine girls as opposed to the varsity football team which has 37 total players.

Of course masks are necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but when it comes to physical exertion, masks can also make it difficult to perform. According to a study by the University of Maryland Medical System, “wearing a mask while exercising can impede your overall performance. Even the most breathable masks decrease airflow, making it slightly harder to breathe.”

Sophomore and second-year veteran of the team Kate Grande finds wearing a mask while dancing difficult and unfair in comparison to the COVID-19 guidelines of other teams.

“I think we should be excused from wearing masks because we always maintain social-distancing throughout our practices and performances and wearing a mask makes our activities more strenuous and acts as a major inconvenience for the team,” she said. “Also, since we are together upwards of 13 hours a week, masks do not significantly contribute to the prevention of the virus on our team.”

As long as the dancers are socially-distanced and are following COVID-19 guidelines outside of practice, they, like the volleyball team, should have the privilege of practicing without masks. 

Head of the Upper School Mr. Fletcher Carr is part of a committee made up of department heads, athletic directors, and the School’s doctors to help to finalize COVID-19 regulations throughout the school. 

According to Mr. Carr, the last time they discussed the Dazzlers was mid-August, but they would be happy to re-address and reconsider the restrictions placed on the team in the upcoming meetings.

Although school during a pandemic is difficult to navigate, it is of the utmost importance that the School is able to make changes and adjust policies as needed.

Counter Point by Grace Kearns

Masks have been a debated topic ever since COVID-19 became a pandemic. The President, governors, state officials, and even store and restaurant owners have struggled to find a way to enforce mask-wearing; they struggled with even deciding on whether or not to mandate masks. Everyone in power has been under extreme scrutiny no matter which side of the debate they take. If they enforce masks, they are taking away peoples’ freedoms. If they don’t enforce masks, they’re being selfish (masks do not protect oneself from COVID-19, it protects the people around an individual from COVID-19, making it incredibly important for others to wear masks). 

The Benjamin School requires mask-wearing and social-distancing at all times and enforces it by issuing punishments for repeated violations of either. Benjamin is aware that masks and social distancing are crucial to keeping everyone safe but these efforts need to be made by everyone involved. This is why it is so confusing to me that the Benjamin sports department has dropped the ball so incredibly hard almost immediately after school came back in-person.

So far, Benjamin’s Dazzlers have practiced and performed with masks on to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is an incredible feat because Florida heat and long-term mask-wearing don’t mix easily, but this a sacrifice the Dazzlers make for the safety of others. However, no other sport at Benjamin has to wear masks consistently.  Temperature checks and occasional socially-distanced practices are about as far as Benjamin and the coaches take it to ensure the virus isn’t spread, totally ignoring the fact that temperature checks are not as effective as people want them to be because fevers would not register on an asymptomatic person.

Cross-country runners do not have to wear masks during practice and only have to wear masks at meets if they are not running. They also don’t have to socially distance if they are wearing masks. Volleyball players do not wear masks during practice or games, and neither do football players. Most, if not all of Benjamin’s sports, excluding the Dazzlers, do not wear masks and enforce social-distancing rules whenever possible. This is unacceptable and is counterproductive to the school’s initiative to prevent COVID cases for as long as possible.The athletics department follows recommendations of Benjamin’s Medical Directors and governing bodies of sports and science, but what they are doing is not enough.

If you can’t wear a mask and play a sport, then just don’t play a sport. Take a break for a semester. This pandemic goes beyond a single person and their wants and needs. Sacrifices need to be made for the better of others, and sometimes the sacrifices are really hard, but that doesn’t make them any less important.Wearing a mask for hours on end can make you feel you’re dying, but you’re not, your feelings and emotions are just controlling you. It has been proven that masks don’t prevent airflow or lower oxygen levels (https://www.lung.org/blog/covid-masks), and yes they can occasionally be difficult to breathe in, but they have a larger positive impact than a negative one. Masks were designed to allow for breathability, and doctors and surgeons would not wear them all day if they were potentially dangerous.

Sports are important to students, and for valid reasons: scholarships, growth, perseverance, teamwork, even just the happiness that comes from doing something you love. But you need to take a step back and make sure everyone around you is safe. Your aversion to wearing masks is not fair to your teammates, your teammates’ families, your teammates’ friends, and whomever you and your teammates find yourself in contact with. 

COVID-19 might not kill you, but it could kill your teachers, their families, your friends’ families, or even your friend because underlying health conditions are just that: underlying. They might not be visible to the human eye, and they may be undiagnosed yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. COVID-19 for you means something entirely different for someone with asthma or COPD or cancer. It’s not selfish to focus on the needs of yourself during these trying times, and it’s actually incredibly important to make sure you are taking care of yourself, but it becomes selfish when you can make sure you are fine but ignore the needs of your peers. 

I’m not saying to shut down all sports at Benjamin until the pandemic is over because that is ludicrous; I’m saying that all precautions need to be met when playing and practicing sports to ensure the safety of all Benjamin students. Masks need to be worn, social distancing needs to take place whenever possible (I understand that some sports require being close together, but this shouldn’t be a problem if players are wearing masks and being precautious overall), and thinking about others need to be visible.