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Let the kids play in sporting events this fall

My youngest son has been training since January for his senior cross country season that should be starting in coming weeks.

Thanks to COVID-19, he already sacrificed his junior baseball season, even missing out on the high school team’s planned spring break trip to Myrtle Beach for a tournament in April. Who could have ever expected this past spring season to be a total wash?

It’s been challenging as a parent, as a sports fan and as a journalist at a local newspaper that heavily covers high school sports.

Here in this newsroom, we are moving ahead with our plans to cover high school sports this fall. The sports writers are already working on advance high school football stories. They are interviewing coaches, inputting team rosters and typing up what we all hope are not just “tentative” game schedules.

Likewise, Ohio’s High School Football Coaches Association are preparing for a season, too.

Last week, that group submitted a 40-page document to the Ohio High School Athletic Association outlining their recommendations for high school football in Ohio amid this global pandemic. The plan utilized the expertise of experienced coaches coupled with research from medical professionals.

I view it as another step toward getting fall sports off the ground — just one week before the official start of the Ohio High School Athletic Association practices for the fall sports season.

The coaches association plan called for common sense items like not sharing beverage containers, social distancing in the locker rooms and washing and sanitizing hands as often as possible.

The proposal would allow teams to spread farther apart on the sidelines, using up to 80 yards rather than 50 yards to provide more space between players. Coaches should wear masks on the sidelines, they said, and plastic face shields should be allowed for players.

Other recommendations called for limits of non-essential personnel on the field, consider a continuous game clock — presumably to move the games along more quickly — and make public address announcements throughout competitions to remind fans about CDC recommendations.

I was hopeful when I first read about the recommendations. Generally, I’m an optimist. I want to believe it’s going to happen. Certainly, we all need something to look forward to these days!

I was further encouraged by new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released last week, that came down hard in favor of sending kids back to school in the fall.

The guidance noted that children don’t suffer much from coronavirus, are less likely than adults to spread it and suffer from being out of school.

I also spotted an interesting story moving on the Ohio wire late last week indicating that Pymatuning Valley High School in southern Ashtabula County has announced intentions to play only Ashtabula County teams for all sports during the entire 2020-21 school year.

The concept, school officials say, is based on Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s COVID-19 county-by-county alert system. Considering other counties may be rated higher on the alert system at any given time, PV school officials felt it was just safer to keep their kids in their county at all times.

I say, if that’s what it takes to keep the competitions happening, then so be it!

As most of us know, high school athletics aren’t just about the game, after all.

Evidence consistently shows that team sports help teach adolescents accountability, dedication and leadership. Student athletes do better academically, are generally healthier and have better attitudes. They express less hostility toward classmates and are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college.

If plans can be devised to keep these kids and their coaches safe, then by all means, it must be done.

As a journalist, as a sports fan and as a parent, I implore the governor, health officials, local boards of education or anyone who has any say in the matter and will listen: We must allow these kids to compete!

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