NH school defends not requiring athletes to wear masks during soccer tournament

DOVER, N.H. (WHDH) - A school in New Hampshire is defending its decision not to require student-athletes to wear face masks during a soccer tournament after another school forfeited their spot.

Portsmouth Christian Academy Athletic Director Derek Summers wrote in a statement that they have left the decision of wearing a mask to each athlete, family, and team based on guidelines issued by Gov. Chris Sununu and the NHIAA.

During this season, several PCA teams have not played opponents that required masks. Two of their teams did voluntarily play one or two games versus teams that required masks and had mixed experiences with this.

“Because our athletes have not trained in masks this fall and based on our experiences competing in them, PCA holds to New Hampshire’s, NHIAAs, and our school policies,” Summers continued. “Changing standards and requiring masks for a tournament game at this point is unfair and, based on our assessment, not required.”

The Newmarket School District opted to forfeit in a soccer tournament this week after schools like PCA choose not to require players to wear face coverings.

School officials cited an uptick in coronavirus positivity reported in the district since mid-September as the reason for their decision, with seven active cases in town and over 40 members of the school community in quarantine.

“Given that our opponents’ protocols do not require face coverings while playing sports and that social distancing is not possible when playing soccer, we will not participate in the upcoming tournament,” the Newmarket School District said in a statement prior to the tournament. “We are disheartened that our pandemic safety protocols will result in us being unable to play in the tournament, but we feel comfortable that this is the right choice for our entire school community at this time.”

Epping High School Athletic Director Benjamin Bourgoin said that he was disappointed in Newmarket’s decision.

“We are disappointed that the game was not played. Our players and coaches were not looking for a forfeit,” he said. “Our hope all along was that the game would be played, with Newmarket athletes abiding by their school’s policies, and our athletes abiding by our school’s policies.”

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