Winter athletes disappointed at KSHSAA decision

Kris Long, Sports Editor

Many winter athletes at Manhattan High were dismayed at Kansas High School Activities Association’s decision not to allow fans at any winter sports events through Jan. 8, which was announced two weeks ago. 

“I was a little upset [when I heard the decision],” junior wrestler Talique Houston said. “I went home and talked to my mom about it and she was upset too. I know a lot of people on my team were upset, because we can still social distance in the gym, so I don’t understand why we can’t have attendance.”

KSHSAA voted to continue the winter season, rather than halt it through the new year, without fans and minimal media presence. This went against the medical advisory board’s recommendation to stop practice and competition in the wake of spiking cases in Kansas and across the Midwest. 

Despite the rising case count, many athletes don’t feel the precautions make them any safer. 

“If we follow the guidelines, I think we can make it work,” senior Taylor Claussen said. “Even if we have at least two parents per player, that’s 40 people in the gym, that could easily be accommodated.”

Athletes are disappointed that their parents won’t be able to watch them play, especially for seniors playing some of their last organized games. The events are being livestreamed but it’s clearly not the same as being there in person. 

“[Not having parents there] is the thing that really does bother me,” senior Kylie Frieling said. “I’ve cheered for years, so my parents have seen me cheer a lot of times, but that it’s my senior year that they don’t get to see… is upsetting.”

Athletes also say the atmosphere won’t be the same without fans there to motivate them. This is especially difficult for cheer, which spends most of their performance time interacting with the crowd rather than the players. 

“Of course [not having fans changes the atmosphere],” Houston said. “We bring the hype but when the fans come, they bring the hype too. I feel like people try a little bit harder if their moms are screaming for them to go.”

KSHSAA is considering overturning or amending the decision amid pushback from parents and athletes across the state. However, even lifting the ban would likely leave the decision up to the district who may or may not remove the restriction. If both KSHSAA and USD 383 chose to allow fans, MHS attendance would still be severely limited. 

“I hope that they do let the parents attend our wrestling duals,” Houston said. “And any other sport.”