It’s no secret that while the nation isn’t shut down like it was this time last year, COVID-19 is still looming heavily, still impacting a lot of what people do daily. The world of sports is no different. Games are still being cancelled, student athletes are still having to quarantine and isolate and proactive measures are still in place to ensure games go on as planned.

But nearly 18 months after nationwide quarantines and a world of unknowns, protocols and precautions are in place to have the most successful seasons possible. That’s not to say games haven’t been cancelled, because while there are actions in place to try and prevent it, the delta variant has reared its ugly head and impacted the lives of younger people.

So far this season for the five sports the Kentucky High School Athletic Association track, there have been 352 games cancelled out of 3,874. Volleyball has suffered the most cancellations with 146, followed by girls soccer with 74, and 72 so far for football. Boys soccer has suffered 60 cancelled games. The exception seems to be field hockey, though only 185 games have been played, it is the lowest by far out of the other four sports.

With volleyball being the only indoor fall sport, those athletes take the higher risk with close contact in an enclosed space. Last season volleyball alone had 214 cancelled games. This trend could lead to concern for winter sports such as basketball and wrestling. Last season, the number of cancelled basketball games between boys and girls was 1,532 out of a total of 6,854 games.

The main difference between last season and this season is the virus itself. The original COVID-19 virus didn’t have the same impact on people age 10-19 as the current delta variant does. On Sept. 7, 2020 the number of reported cases for the day in that age group was 5,621. Spring forward exactly one year and the number jumps to a staggering 76,496, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

While there is still time until tip-off for the first high school basketball games, one could assume that indoor sports are going to continue to be at higher risk than outdoor sports.

KHSAA lays out the protocols as follows. The current policy for athletes who test positive or who are exposed to someone who is varies, depending on whether they have been vaccinated or not. If fully vaccinated, a student athlete is not required to quarantine if they encounter a positive person as long as they don’t show any symptoms. If not vaccinated and in contact with a positive case then the person must quarantine for 14 days. If an athlete tests positive, whether vaccinated or not, the player must quarantine for 14 days as well as anyone that was in close contact with said person.

A chart goes into detail on regarding returning to play. Depending on severity of the positive case, a student athlete could only have to isolate for 10 days from the positive COVID test or could be out of play for up to 20 days for those who had moderate symptoms or a non-ICU related hospital stay.

Chelsea Ladd, sports reporter for The Sun was able to sit down with a few athletes and get their insights for a story she wrote last month.

“As a student-athlete during the pandemic, I have grown to appreciate the outlet sports can provide. So many high schoolers struggled with their mental health and anxiety during virtual learning,” McCracken County girls soccer player Hillary Hollowell told The Sun. “I was extremely blessed to be able to relieve my struggles through soccer. The practices and games we had last year provided a sense of normalcy in an uncertain time.”

“I think this year is almost more difficult because COVID-19 seems more real for us, teenagers,” Hollowell said. “We have seen COVID take a toll on our peers and younger adults’ health and watched our friends and teammates have to quarantine. However, we are doing our best to stay safe and positive during these difficult times.”

Paul McKnight, a junior for the Paducah Tilghman boys soccer team shared how jumping back into this new season has been different and difficult.

“It’s been different. When we were able to first start sports up again after the pandemic, it was strange,” McKnight said. “Practices carried out differently, and there were many mandates that made it difficult.”

So while things have been looking up in some instances, the world of high school sports that many love so much is still at risk. Games can be cancelled at any moment and that takes its toll on everyone involved, most importantly the players.