Frederick County sports historian reflects on sports during the Spanish Flu pandemic


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — With no high school sports, the environment around our local area doesn’t feel the same. But, according to one Frederick county sports historian, this isn’t the first time we’re entering warmer weather without springtime high school sports.

Sheldon Shealer has made a career of following and keeping track of high school sports in Frederick County, beginning first as a Frederick High School alum. He says sports have been canceled and moved around, during situations like World War I, World War II, and weather-related disasters. But the last time high school sports were affected because of a disease, was during the Spanish Influenza back in 1919.

Sheldon said, “High school sports circa 1918 was a world’s different than 2020. For starters there were few sports, there were no sports for women. However there was really almost no oversight in governance either. When [the Spanish Flu] hit, the second round of it hit in September, Maryland closed all of its schools. Most of them for about six weeks.”

As for the future of high school sports after COVID-19; Sheldon says, “Now we’ve got so many other things attached to high school sports; there’s scholarships, there’s college opportunities, there’s club, there are all of these other outlets and mechanisms around the sports and that didn’t exist in the 1918-1919 school year so therefore the impact was very minimal.”

While the impact may have been minimal back in 1919, in terms of long term effects, Sheldon says shutting down sports today not only impacts the Class of 2020 all over the country, but also juniors in the Class of 2021; especially in terms of the recruiting process.

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