On Jan. 15, the Las Animas Huerfano County Health Departments announced that no spectators would be allowed at Winter sports in Las Animas County, dealing another blow to athletes of the 2020-21 sports season.
Yet the message that the Las Animas County Health Department is delivering to student athletes and their families is confusing.
In an announcement on Dec. 31, 2020, Governor Jared Polis pushed 33 counties across Colorado from “Red” on the states COVID-19 framework to “Orange” relaxing many restrictions.
This move put Las Animas county in a sticky situation, while case incident count in the county is well above the threshold that which would put the county in “Red,” restrictions reflect that of level “Orange.”
The biggest discrepancy in the gap between case counts and restrictions: While public gyms can operate at 25 percent capacity, winter high school sports are not permitted to allow fans to the same capacity.
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) has mandated that athletes participating in basketball and spirit wear a face mask while competing to minimize the spread.
In the absence of fans, high school seniors in the Las Animas County area will play their final season of basketball, spirit and wrestling without the presence of family members.
“It’s hard knowing that they’ve supported me for most of my life in this sport and I come down to my last year of high school basketball and they are not able to watch. It’s hard, it’s really hard for me and especially for them,” said Matthew Doherty the lone senior on the Kim Mustangs basketball team.
The Kim/Branson Mustangs share just four seniors between the boys’ and girls’ teams, following the Health Department’s release there has been pushback from the community to allow the eight parents to watch their children’s final season live.
“It would take a lot for at least one of us Joe (Husband) or me not to be there. I do not think there has ever been a game where at least one of us was not there,” said Lisa Doherty, Matthew’s mother.
Currently, Lisa and Joe would be able to watch Matthew live at three games in Prowers and Baca counties, with limited seating capacity and COVID-19 restrictions.
“They’ve come ever since I started,” said Primero Senior Lance Peters, “It is a lot different without them there giving us support and cheering us on.”
Primero and Kim will live broadcast their basketball games via Facebook live, links to the streams are on school websites.
Hoehne has set up a NFHS network account and all basketball games will be live streamed to the site, and games will be saved for on-demand streaming.
Trinidad High School has not published a streaming platform yet, with games not set to start until Feb. 6.
Primero along with live broadcasting will also have live commentary for high school basketball games.
“They bring energy and excitement there are definitely places where there is a home court advantage because the fans are there,” said Kim Assistant Coach Ben Doherty.
Doherty mentioned Kim’s previous struggles playing at the Primero gym, citing the unique home court advantage the Bulldogs have had against the Mustangs in previous years.
Doherty said, “It is going to be like a bunch of scrimmages it helps in some places like Primero where it is really hard to play, but that advantage is not there this year.”
Without fans this year, mental preparation is at the forefront of player readiness said Doherty. Players will have to bring their own energy, to dictate the pace of the game without the hype of local fans.
“In my experience fans just add an extra energy to the game, and it helps switch momentum for teams going on a run and they make you want to play harder. They just make the game more fun, and especially when you get into the playoffs when you get more and more fans and bigger gyms for small schools like we are,” said Matt Doherty.
As cases fall, and COVID-19 vaccines are distributed players and parents remain hopeful that restrictions ease and the health department revisits their decision.
“I hate that there are not fans this year but if that the way the kids get to play this year than I am okay with it,” said Ben Doherty. “It has been such a hard year on everybody but especially the kids, so if this is the only way they can do that then I am all for it.”