A Glimpse into the Now and Later of SHS Sports


Photo of the wall of school teams that sits in the SHS Athletics hallway. Taken by the SHS Athletics Department.

Emma Phillips, Staff Writer, Artist

From sanitizers to masks to screenings of every athlete, sports practices have looked a little different at SHS now than in past years.

A number of the school sports coaches shared their thoughts and opinions on what the future might hold next semester and even the next school year for their teams. Their words first started with some apprehension, as the first question asked was how they felt having their sport canceled due to the virus.

Cassie Bonde,  varsity softball head coach, says, “It was tough. Our season was supposed to start on Mar. 16 last spring. The Thursday before, I remember being in the gym, making sure our equipment was ready while the track athletes were practic[ing]. Then we got word. I felt for our seniors. They wanted so badly to have that last chance to get on the field.” 

Even though the start of the school year was messy, Bonde says she is hopeful for the spring season. “I know our softball girls are chomping at the bit to get back on the field.”  

Jason Becker, the high school head football coach and the assistant wrestling coach, has clear plans for the futures of his teams. 

“A lot of the safety protocols that have been put in place due to the pandemic are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future, and I feel that is a good thing. Most of the procedures are reminders to practice good personal hygiene and to be more aware of our own surroundings,” Becker says. 

Mel Dow, the SHS athletics and activities director, shared what normal practices look like now during the pandemic. 

“All practices start with a screening process to look for symptoms of COVID-19, including elevated body temperature. Masks are required at all times and a combined effort by the coaches and custodial department sanitize the facilities throughout […] During the first couple weeks of practice, teams worked on basic sport skills while here in Stoughton following the PHMDC guidelines,” Dow says.

Dow went on to say, “With the approval of Dr. Onsager for teams to leave Dane County like the rest of the Badger Conference schools, our varsity teams in hockey, basketball, and wrestling will load busses of 12-15 people to off-site locations to scrimmage in practice to prepare for the upcoming competition. Swimming restrictions do not limit practice opportunities here in Stoughton, so they continue to train as they normally would, but in multiple cohorts.”

In the five responses given, the coaches were all disappointed due to the cancellations of their sports, but all are hopeful for their upcoming seasons.

“In the spring, I feel it was the right choice to cancel track and field given all of [the] unknowns. As for the fall, I wish Dane County could’ve figured out how to run cross country as most schools in the state did. I fully understand the need to [take] precautions, but I also understand the emotional and mental-health needs of students. At least we have a chance to have a shortened early spring cross country season in 2021,” Nathan Nelson, head coach of boys track and field and assistant cross country coach, says. His expectations for the cross country team reside just on hoping their season actually occurs next semester. 

“Hopefully, people won’t let their guard down, and combined with a more widespread COVID inoculation program, it’ll be safer to conduct spring sports,” Nelson says.

Regarding the COVID safety protocols, Nelson said, “I’m happy that we are taking precautions, and I’m thrilled that our school board and athletic department are looking at ways to keep student-athletes involved. Our school has done a tremendous job in allowing athletes to practice when they can, and we have stringent PPE and distancing rules in place. I am hopeful that as the vaccine becomes more readily available and as the weather warms up in the spring, COVID incidences reduce and we are given the green light to compete.”

Patrick Schneider, head coach of the boys cross country team, was worried about the participation numbers dropping after the pandemic comes to an end. 

“If the athletes enjoy their sport, they will keep doing it. Athletes haven’t fully participated in cross country in over a year. It will take some action on the part of coaches and athletes to remind some runners why they ran and encourage new athletes to try the sport,” Schneider says. “I am most sad for seniors who did not get the full ‘cross country’ experience their senior year. There is something joyful about lining up on a Saturday morning with hundreds of other runners to run a 5K while thousands watch. That just has not been possible this year. I think all sports have that feeling in their own way.” Winter sports, however, are on a different agenda.

“All of our winter sports are in action at this time. All sports are holding practices/workouts. All teams but girls hockey look to start competition this week [week of Jan. 11]. Girls hockey did not have enough players to compete in any games, but the coaches have held opportunities for them to skate as a team,” Dow says.

Schneider says as a last thought, “I would like to think that hard things like COVID ultimately make us mentally stronger people and better athletes. After all of this, most of us will not take high school athletics for granted.”