[EDITORIAL] HISD’s damaging policy: why athletes are unprepared for their season


Photo by Luke Parker

Varsity football players stand for the national anthem before a game agains Heights High School.

The pandemic forced sports leagues to temporarily cancel their seasons, but leagues such as the NBA managed to resume playing within a COVID-19 bubble. Now, as professional sports teams have started playing again, and with high school teams following suit, players face a brand new set of challenges, such as social distancing during practices and cancelling games on a short notice. However, in addition to this year’s struggles, Bellaire’s student athletes face an additional obstacle. 

HISD regulation has placed our sports team at a disadvantage against competing schools. 

HISD implemented a policy that prevents teams from beginning practice until the start of their season. Winter or spring sports such as soccer, baseball and basketball have not been allowed to practice and build team chemistry before the start of seasons. With 83 percent  of Bellaire students attending school virtually, it is impossible to emulate the same chemistry created from bonding on the field. Schools in Katy ISD, Cypress Fairbanks ISD and Spring Branch ISD do not face the same athletic rules. Their programs have been practicing since July.  

Our varsity football team  lost in the first round of playoffs to Jersey Village High School in CFISD , and our varsity volleyball team lost in the second round of playoffs to Katy High School in KISD.  One is left to wonder if the two months of additional practice gave these teams an advantage. 

And when practices began, social distancing measures proved to be effective. Players filled out questionnaires before each practice, allowing coaches to contact-trace in the event of a player testing positive for COVID-19. Practices were held outdoors, and football players were given masks to wear throughout practice to limit the spread of the virus. Volleyball players even wore face masks during games to protect themselves. Lastly, players received temperature checks before each practice to make sure that any symptomatic players were not allowed to infect others. Student athletes have shown their commitment to stopping the spread of the virus. Their passion for their sports reflects in their efforts to follow safety protocols. Yet HISD does not seem to care.

Due to the limited practices, baseball and soccer players have been forced to play for club teams and outside leagues to stay in shape for their upcoming seasons. These off-campus opportunities come with a hefty price. Student athletes who cannot pay to join travel teams are left at a disadvantage compared to even their own school teammates. According to U.S. News and World Report, 48 percent of Bellaire students are economically disadvantaged. HISD’s practice policy further perpetuates socioeconomic divide in a field where everyone should be equal, regardless of income.

The swim team faces another HISD obstacle that has forced the team to miss out on half of its season. HISD has dragged its feet in fixing the pool on campus. This issue also affects Westside High School and prevents both swim teams from hosting practices. Texas UIL allowed swim teams to begin practicing on Oct. 16, and some HISD schools, most notably our rival Lamar High School, have been able to practice. 

Bellaire’s swim team requested an order of lights necessary for the safety of swimmers during practice in October. After a grueling waiting period, HISD eventually processed the request and the lights arrived on Nov. 19, more than a month after practices at other schools had begun.

After a month and a half of waiting, Bellaire swimmers practiced for the first time at Pershing Middle School on Dec. 8. The lights for the pool were installed Dec. 11. The swim team has canceled four meets because members have been unable to practice properly. This has not only placed Bellaire swimming at a complete disadvantage against schools from neighboring districts, but also from other HISD schools. 

HISD needs to hold themselves accountable for their actions, or rather, their inaction. HISD cannot continue to provide competitive advantages to other teams and fail to replicate those advantages to schools like Bellaire. Knowing that our school has a hindered ability to make up for these disadvantages financially, HISD’s continuation to unequally place restrictions on individual teams is an incredibly consequential issue. In order to maintain the competitive balance between schools like Bellaire and its district counterparts, as well as to keep athletic participation up at one of HISD’s largest schools, they must allow us to operate the same way that other schools are by holding practices routinely and far enough in advance from competition. 

Safety standards can be upheld with social distancing measures, as our football and volleyball teams have proven to be fully capable of holding practices with minimal risks. HISD’s actions affect student athletes and their families. The district must be made aware of the harmful impact of their decisions on athletes and their futures.