Hillsborough County announces Return to Athletics Plan


Kate Caranante

Walking up the bleachers blue masking tape X’s mark where spectators will sit. Each group of four spectators submitted by the student athlete will sit between the X’s.

Kate Caranante, Editor in Chief

As students headed back to school at the end of August, there was still uncertainty about what would happen as fall sports were set to begin.  

However, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Hillsborough County school district rolled out their Return to Athletics plan. This plan announced that fall sports contests would begin on Wednesday, Sept. 8 and outlined the new protocols put in place so that spectators are able to attend 

It was nice that the district worked on this plan so then we just had to implement it,” athletic director Lauren Otero said. 

The district decided that each athlete participating in a sport would be allowed to invite four spectators to attend their game. The participant must submit the names of the four spectators before the deadline, which is two days before the game for football and one day before the game for volleyball.  

Once the spectators are submitted by the participants, only those people will be allowed to purchase tickets which are now being sold via each school’s website. The tickets are required at the gate in digital form and once in the stands the four spectators must remain in their “pod” of four.  

“I think it’s important for the athlete’s parents to be able to see them if they wanted to come watch,” Otero said. “That to me was the first priority, to get the parents out here. The additional two tickets that the school district is allowing does allow opportunity for siblings or friends to sit with their parents.” 

The stands in the stadium and gymnasium are labeled with masking tape X’s to mark where the pods of four will sit to maintain social distance. When asked about if there was enough space in the bleachers for all the spectators invited by the football team, band, cheerleaders and Danceros, Otero assured there was.  

“That’s why there are limits,” Otero said. “For example, with football you can only dress 60 people on your roster, so only 60 people are getting pods, or an opportunity to invite four people. We also gave it to 20 coaches, so there is enough X’s to fill everyone that would potentially be able to have people here.” 

Before the football game on Friday, Sept. 11 the parking lot will open at 6 p.m. and spectators will be allowed into the bleachers at 6:30 p.m. 

“The concern is to actually see it come through,” Otero said. “It’s the unknown right now with the anticipation leading up to Friday, hoping that everything we put in place has gotten out to people and is going to be followed through. We hope that everyone is able to enjoy themselves with everyone else following the protocols.” 

Spectators will be asked to keep their masks on at all times and remain in their pod, unless they are buying concessions from the concession stand which will now only take credit cards.   

“The part that excites me the most is seeing it come together,” Otero said. “To see the fans come in and fill the stands because we didn’t know if we fans were going to be able to be allowed so it’s going to be nice to have people cheer on the students as they are playing.”