After a year and a half of virtual and hybrid learning, students are back to the traditional classroom setting. And in Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, tradition also means sports.
Though all sports venues at Brownsville ISD will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity — just as in pre-COVID times — measures remain to ensure the player’s safety. This, BISD Athletic Director Gilbert Leal said, is the positive to have come out of the pandemic.
“As a district, we had to put better sanitation practices in place, and it made us a little more conscious of how important it is to make sure all our facilities and all our equipment are clean and safe,” he said. “We’re going to continue with our safety protocols and screenings on a daily basis.”
Leal oversees sports for all of the district’s schools, including six high schools, 10 middle schools, and the aquatic center. Throughout history, each campus at BISD has achieved high levels of athletic success.
“Our high schools offer 14 sports, and at one of our schools, Veterans Memorial Early College High School, we were district champions in 10 of those 14 sports,” Leal said. “We have been fortunate to have a lot of success in our schools.”
Along with the enjoyment of simply being on the field, Leal said the spirit of competition is also returning. However, due to many players going for over a year without playing any sports, there will be an emphasis on the basics.
“Slowly, we want to make sure we reinforce the basic skills they may have lost over the last 18 months, so just spending more time on the fundamentals and making sure we get everything right,” he said.
While the availability of vaccines to students ages 12 and older and a better understanding of how the virus spreads is allowing for the safe return to sports, Leal said there had been a drop in participation.
“Health issues are still a concern for a lot of families all over the state and RGV, so our numbers have not yet returned to pre-COVID,” he said. “We are just going to have to encourage our parents and teams that we’re doing the right thing in making sure everything is safe for their kids to return face-to-face.”
Though not required, the district is encouraging everyone eligible to receive the vaccine, as it will allow for a smooth, uninterrupted season. In accordance with CDC guidelines, an unvaccinated student who is discovered to have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual must quarantine for seven to 10 days before getting tested and returning to class and practice. Vaccinated students, however, do not have to isolate themselves.
To make it easier for families, BISD continues to offer the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine for individuals 12 and up at its registrations and various events.
In addition to keeping the students healthy through activity, Leal said the benefits of a child playing sports go beyond the physical.
“There is no substitute for the values a student can learn from athletics,” he said. “It helps build character. There is no substitute for the bonds created among the students and between the coaches. We help them push through adversities, and that is going to help them in all parts of their lives.”
For more information on Brownsville ISD’s athletic programs and upcoming seasons, visit www.bisd.us.