their children’s futures often played a role in decisions about playing time.

Willandria Middleton, a high school librarian in Montgomery, Ala., worried about the repercussions of forbidding her son, William, 17, from playing high school football. “Everybody was afraid, like, ‘Oh my God, if he gets it he might die,’” she said. “But I thought, well, to keep him from it — would that kill him as well, if he can’t play what he loves?”

Her son’s high school is more than 80 percent Black, and she said she agreed with William’s coaches that football provided much-needed structure for him and his teammates. “A lot of our young Black boys who play football here in Montgomery, that’s all they have to do,” Ms. Middleton said.

died after battling Covid-19. But the football team finished the season without any outbreaks — perhaps, William said, because his head coach required the players to wear masks everywhere and prohibited them from attending in-person classes. “If you weren’t at practice or games, he didn’t want you out.”

For William, the pandemic season paid off. In December, he received a football scholarship to a junior college in New Mexico. “I just wanted to use my ability so my mother didn’t have to pay for me to go to college,” he said.

Some children and families, though, made difficult decisions to sit out the year.

Tyler Bihun, 18, a high school senior in Bloomington, Ill., and his twin brother have played hockey together for about 13 years. But they decided to stay off the ice after seeing opposition to face masks at their local indoor rink. “We just didn’t think it was very safe, and we didn’t want to expose our parents,” Tyler said.

The brothers also chose remote learning despite an option to return to classrooms two days a week.

Looking back, Tyler said he had no regrets. The travel team he used to play on had a Covid-19 outbreak that forced the cancellation of practices and games, and one of his former teammates was seriously ill for two weeks, he said. “I miss hockey, but giving it up was definitely the right decision.”

In Louisiana, where the wrestling season was disrupted by the tournament outbreak but the state championship was still held, athletes and coaches were forced to adapt to a slew of safety protocols. Handshakes were banned, and social distancing and face masks were required when students were not competing.

Julie Castex, a clinical nurse specialist in New Orleans who works in infectious-disease research, said letting her son, Ethan, 18, wrestle during his senior year of high school came down to a “risk-benefit ratio.” The family ultimately decided that keeping him off the mats would do too much harm to his mental health.

“It’s scary because you’re letting your son compete in a very contact sport,” she said. “And while you’re looking at the data and thinking that he’s probably fine at his age, there is a risk. But everything else essentially has been taken away his senior year, and wrestling is pretty much all he got to do that was normal.”

Eddie Bonine, the executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, said officials have worked hard to protect students and staff members, but acknowledged there have been bumps in the road.

“Our schools have been doing the best they can, and it’s not always working right,” Mr. Bonine said, adding, “Once people get in the doors, some of the masks come off.”

Still, he said the state’s overall record had been good, and that although more than 4,700 people attended the state wrestling championship in late February, no cases were reported. “We’re learning how to live with this virus,” he said.

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