A fan recently asked why University of Washington volleyball players are wearing masks when UW  basketball players aren’t.

The short answer is that was the recommendation of the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee, whose guidelines the Pac-12 Conference is using to determine such things.

Why did the committee decide volleyball players would wear masks?

“Because you can in volleyball,” said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, a member of the Pac-12 Medical Advisory Committee. “We think it’s safer to play – particularly indoors – in a mask. It’s very difficult to play basketball in a mask and it’s less difficult to do so in volleyball.”

Volleyball action comes in spurts, where basketball has more continuous action.

“Our medical recommendation is if you can play in a mask, you should,” said Harmon, who also is a physician for UW athletics.

So, Pac-12 volleyball teams are masking up during games.

Samantha Drechsel, a senior outside hitter for the UW volleyball team, said wearing a mask has been “a learning experience.”


“We when first started practicing in masks, it was pretty rough, especially in the summer when it was hot out and the gym was stuffy,” Drechsel said. “But now, I don’t really remember what it was like to not play in a mask.”

In early December, the Pac-12 updated a 26-page document titled “Guidance for Local Planning for Return to Sporting Activity.” It included detailed information on guidelines for testing, traveling and masking rules for officials at competitions in each sport. However, the document had no guidelines for the athletes during competitions in each sport.

A Pac-12 official said that for now the only sports required to wear masks during competitions are volleyball and indoor soccer practices.

In the theme of, “if you can wear a mask, you should,” competitors in the throwing events at the UW Indoor Preview track and field meet wore masks while the competitors in the running and jumping events did not.

The Husky gymnasts took their masks off only when performing in relatively short routines.

The softball team was wearing masks Friday for its season-opening games, but the players are used to them because they wear masks at practices.


“But just practicing (with masks), it really hasn’t been that much of a difference,” said catcher Morganne Flores, a second-team All-American in 2019. “Obviously, wearing it under a catcher’s mask isn’t the most ideal situation, but whatever we have to do to play, we’re going to do.”

All-American shortstop Sis Bates agreed that wearing a mask is not ideal, “but we are going to crush it.”

Whether or not a sport can be played without a mask might be subjective, but the overall goal is not.

“Our recommendations are to go with the lowest risk possible that you can still play the sport,” Harmon said.