High school basketball season is beginning with a mask mandate.
Games don't tip off until January, but tryouts start this week. And the North Carolina High School Athletic Association is requiring everyone in the gym – athletes, coaches and trainers – to mask up.
Association commissioner Que Tucker says with COVID-19 metrics going in the wrong direction, she wants high school athletes to do their part to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Nobody wants to wear a mask playing, but I think our young people want to play,” Tucker said.
Tucker says most athletes would rather play in a mask than not play at all, and that sports give students healthy outlets, and incentives for keeping grades up.
"We believe that sports are very important,” Tucker said. “They help in a lot of ways."
Gov. Roy Cooper's order requiring athletes playing youth or amateur sports indoors to wear face coverings is in place at least through Friday.
Tucker says a mask requirement could still be in place for high school basketball players when competition starts a few weeks from now. Games will be restricted to 25 spectators.
Some school districts are imposing even tighter restrictions. Durham, for example, won't allow any spectators.
Rhonda Dreibelbis is the Athletic Director of Jordan High School in Durham County. She says that she wants to look back after the pandemic and be able to say, “We did everything we could to still get our student athletes on the field in a safe manner.”
The NCHSAA hopes to not have to cancel any basketball games when competition starts in January, but the board would consider it, if necessary.