School sporting events are now allowed to invite friends and family to watch, a change from the previous policy under Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration that banned spectators at K-12 sports games.
The change comes just days before most high school sports seasons officially begin.
Gov. Wolf’s office wrote in a statement,
"The sports guidance was updated to clarify that spectators may attend events as set forth in the governor and secretary of health's orders on indoor and outdoor gatherings."
The rules for gatherings still apply: a maximum of 25 people inside or 250 people outside.
In some cases falling under that cap may require limiting spectators, cutting down team numbers or bringing the band in just for their performance at halftime.
“That one's going to be a little tricky and I think we're just going to have to be creative. Schools are going to have to be creative,” said Melissa Mertz, associate executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA).
PIAA applauds the decision to allow fans, Mertz said, but the organization is already concerned about the fast-approaching winter sports season. PIAA advocates updating the current indoor limit from 25 people to at least 25 percent capacity at sports venues.
“[Sports venues] are bigger than most of your bars and restaurants. We don't see any reason why we can't safely have the teams, the officials, the coaches, and moms and dads there to be able to watch their kids play,” Mertz said.
The beginning of the 2020 fall sports season is already shaping up to be anything but a normal year.
“It’s been challenging. It’s been difficult,” said Samuel London, III, head football coach and academic advisor at J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster.
The pandemic has already changed K-12 sports. Some athletes playing football, soccer, field hockey and more are seen wearing masks on the field. Social distancing measures are also affecting team culture, coaches said.
“It has to change. If there's a good player and there's great effort, normally you would slap hands or slap thighs or encourage each other,” London said. “So you have to break that up.”
Just like their athletes, coaches and teams will need to stay agile, as conditions and rules may change again.