By Kate Rider
Graphic By Jennifer Notman
It’s easy to say the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult on everyone. People have lost their jobs, kids have started to fall behind in school, equity gaps have grown, but a slightly less-talked about aspect has been student athletes. Sports seasons across the country were cancelled because of the pandemic back in 2020, and since then, student athletes have been buzzing to get back together and be able to compete again. Cancelled sports seasons have caused many more problems than just no high school games; juniors and seniors are missing out on playing games with scouts in the bleachers, the mental health of student athletes declined, kids who would normally be in school or at sports practice are getting into more trouble and more.
It didn’t take long for students, parents and coaches to start advocating for getting kids back into competitive sports. Let Them Play Foundation, a foundation dedicated to give funding for kids’ sports programs that need it and to raise awareness for the “plight of inactivity facing our children” and founded by Eric Byrne, inspired several groups to form in many states to fight to get competitive sports back started in schools.
Since then, these groups have held rallies, campaigns, and more to move forward with sports. The Let Them Play CA group has filed several lawsuits against Governor Gavin Newsom, and the first lawsuit from San Diego settled on March 8 with the agreement to allow outdoor and indoor sports to restart with testing protocols.
So, good news for kids across California who’ve been waiting for months and months on end to get back into sports. But is it?
I believe it’s extremely important for kids to get back into school for many of the reasons that the Let Them Play groups have mentioned, for the sake of student athletes’ mental health, their futures and other factors. But there’s a reason Newsom had his tier system set up in the first place. Yes, all sports are equal in that all their student athletes are suffering without the programs, but not all sports are equally safe to play in current pandemic restrictions. Saying that sports like tennis, an outdoor sport with little to no contact between players, should open at the same time and have the same restrictions as sports like basketball, an indoor sport with high amounts of contact between two teams of over 5 kids on a court at once, is impractical and a fallacy with current COVID-19 conditions and restrictions.
Both options aren’t ideal for student athletes who are just trying to complete their high school seasons, but in the middle of a deadly global pandemic, sometimes we just have to choose between bad and worse options. The best thing we can do is choose the option that best protects our children and our community at large and do the best we can to make it through the rest of it all right.