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The Press Box for 2/10

By Ed Parsons - Editor | Feb 11, 2021

This past week we watched as the annual big event lit up TV screens around the country. While many of the usual Super Bowl parties were toned down a bit there was still plenty of hype in homes and sports bars throughout the nation.

Betting on the outcome of the game was at an all time high, and social media chat created a stir nearly as rapid as a Trump rally. It just goes to show that sports are alive and well despite the ravaging affect COVID has had worldwide. Locally we are hopeful high school athletes will soon be back in action. We know it’s going to be a scaled down season for winter sports, and we know it’s going to be a challenge for many small schools to just put together a team.

With winter and spring sports overlapping, coaches will have to work together to accommodate each other as some kids play more than one sport. For the past year we’ve lost the sense of pride in school and communities that sports and other extracurricular activities provide us. These things teach lifelong lessons, teamwork, and self-discipline, and facilitate the physical and emotional development of our youth. We have to get them back in action.

Education and community leaders know the importance and benefits of participation in interscholastic sports, music, theatre, debate, and other activities, they understand the need for these programs. These activities provide important developmental experiences that enrich a student’s high school experience and entire life. And these programs must be protected and sustained. High school activity programs are today’s best bargains. It is in these vital programs where young people learn to become contributing citizens in society.

Things are starting to get somewhat better as far as the virus is concerned, but we can’t let down our safeguards. Just looking at the number of cases and deaths across America is frightening and anyone who denies them is putting their own family at high risk. No one wants our kids sick or our teachers and coaches, and I’m sure they will take all the precautions needed to keep our kids and themselves safe as they head back to the classrooms and sports starts back up.

It’s still not going to be normal with limited attendance allowed at games and school functions, but, it’s way better than doing nothing at all. West Virginia is getting the shots out into the arms of people faster than all other states, however many are still waiting. We will soon have three vaccines available and it won’t be long before it’s available for all. I have had mine and I can testify it was an easy process and I experienced no side effects. Actually my flu shot was tougher.

The values inherent in high school athletics, academics and all extracurricular activities cannot be overlooked. We have to provide those programs for our youth, after all students who participate in activity programs tend to have higher grade-point averages, better attendance records, and lower dropout rates.

Through their participation they build self-confidence and develop skills to handle competitive situations. These are qualities students need if they are to become responsible adults, productive citizens and skilled professionals. Participation in high school activities is a valuable part of the overall high school experience, giving students a sense of belonging.

So, let’s get behind our schools, our students, our educators, our coaches, boosters clubs, administrators, and all the volunteers. Let’s get them in school, make it a safe place and move on with the process. I’m not one to put anything over safety, especially sports, however where there is a way to make things safe, I say let’s get moving. Our kids are to important to lose this opportunity to develop as athletes and leaders.

Some of the best relationships one makes in their lifetime come from connections with peers outside of the classroom. Many capture lifetime memories that are special. Years from now at school reunions and get-togethers these memories are rediscovered and the joy of them return. Coaches who really had an impact on their lives remain their friends and advice they had offered still lingers in their minds.

Sports are important, not everyone is cut out to be an athlete, but everyone can have a role to play. I remember some of the best mascots for local schools, some of the biggest fans, and many crowded gyms and stadiums. I remember just one jog around the gym or the football field by the mascot, which would bring the place to life and lift the energy of the team, sometimes enough to carry them to victory.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS

There may be some risk to going back to school and starting sports back up, but the benefits far outweigh the risks according to statistics.

More will be accomplished for more students if coaches and other activity leaders deliberately, directly, and diligently teach the values, life skills, and positive youth development characteristics they want their student athletes and activity participants to learn and acquire. During the pandemic statistics show that alcohol, drugs use, and even suicide has increased. More kids have missed a meal, many have no safe place to go and no adult figure to confine in.

Schools are unique settings for our youth. Since students spend much of their time at school, education-based activities may offer easier access to athletic and other activities. Education-based activities staff are trained not only to teach students athletic skills, but skills that help students do well later in life. Schools are centers of learning where teaching and learning are intentionally designed and implemented. We need them open for the Children’s sake!