Five reasons we need fall sports in 2020
We’ll preface this as being an op-ed piece. And of course, we are biased – we love sports. That said, this opinion resonates with the silent majority, while it may invite criticism and be deemed unpopular for some others. We ran a simple poll on Twitter asking if we should play fall sports, and an overwhelming 92% said yes. It’s worth noting that the opinion of playing sports carries a caveat that it must be done safely to put the health of others in the forefront. It has to be done right.
The latest statement from executive director Robin Hines of GHSA was very encouraging. He said that in spite of the rise in COVID cases, he feels that teams can ramp up intensity ahead of fall sports.
As the fall 2020 sports scene hangs in the balance and agonizes many of us on a daily basis, the fact remains that daily new information is out that can change things for the better or worse. Here are the five reasons we need to play fall sports in 2020.
1. Economic Impact
Almost every decision made comes down to money. Yes, that may not always sound popular, but it’s truth. The almighty dollar typically is at the end of every decision made. Football is king in the south. To that end, GHSA’s revenue (2017) audit, shows that over 31% of its overall revenue is generated by that sport alone. That figure is likely higher over the past few years. Add in other fall sports like softball, volleyball, cross country, cheerleading, and even one-act plays, and that revenue stream (along with football) comes out to 40%. Foregoing a fall season means a 40% revenue (at least!) loss for GHSA.
Let’s also include the schools who generate most of their athletic revenue streams from football alone. That’s booster money, advertising, sponsorships, donations, gate money, etc. And don’t forget the communities that rely on fall sports being played. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, and other areas of interest that surround high school sports with fans and families traveling. The impact we saw on the spring 2020 shutdown would pale in comparison to not having a football/fall season. There’s so much to lose financially.
Oh, and private schools. For many of them, it’s athletics that can be the deciding factor on paying for school versus public school. We’ve actually heard parents of a couple of private schools say that if there are no fall sports, their kid likely will be going elsewhere. Just another way you can see the financial implications.
2. Morale Builder
We’ve seen this movie before, time and time again in our history. Insert tragedy/tough era, sports is almost always what has brought people back together. In a world full of trauma, fear, hopelessness, discord, hatred, and more, the sports scene being back after months of hiatus would no doubt be electric.
Many people talk about not realizing how much they took for granted. Players, coaches, fans, and families NEED something good. They need something to give them a sense of normalcy, spirit, and for once…just some good news. It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, sports’ impact goes far beyond whatever you picture on the surface. It brings us together and builds a sense of community and morale.
The NCAA was forced to do a major overhaul when spring season was cut short, and the dominoes began to fall with the options for seniors to return, etc. That ripple effect has already caused waves in professional drafts, scholarships guaranteed to players, underclassmen now another year still down on the depth chart, incoming freshman scholarships rescinded, etc. Those waves are felt at the high school level too. Ask seniors from spring 2020 if their future in college athletics was affected. Most would say yes, as they didn’t get a real chance to finish the recruitment process and lost opportunities to be seen. Some were lucky enough to commit before.
When you start looking at scholarship opportunities lost by seniors not getting their last chance, you’re changing lives. Many dreams would be crushed, and plans changed. Ask the seniors from spring 2020 sports. It’s unfortunately something they will never forget. The whole spring debacle is a mess for universities across the country. So seniors get another year of eligibility, but what about the junior who now also returns as a senior but still sits behind the guy or girl coming back.
4. If Schools Are Open…
If we have kids in school for in-class instruction, you MUST have fall sports. There’s really no debate on how you can have one without the other. If you put 600-2000 kids in a building(s), surely you can square off two teams in any fall sport with the same effect. Most every school in the Northeast Georgia area has already released, or will be releasing soon, back to school re-opening plans. That’s a good sign. It helps that President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence have strongly urged schools to re-open in the fall. However, almost all of the back to school plans have contingency plans to fall back on should coronavirus concerns take over. Still, even if schools are online, there can still be sports.
This is already proven true for Atlanta-area public schools. Some 11 schools in the metro-Atlanta area are already stated to be going online for at least the first nine weeks of the semester. Students will still be meeting eligibility requirements by GHSA and therefore able to play fall sports.
Perhaps Hines said it best: “My thought is, if we’re going to gather all these kids to go to school, they need to have activities as well,’’ Hines said. “I don’t think an activity after school, playing ball, running cross country, is going to be any more lenient as far as spreading a virus than being in a large high school.’’
5. The Grind…
It’s all about the grind. Poll the seniors especially. They want to play. They have spent their lives gearing up for a special final run with their teammates. Chasing numbers, wins, records, legacies. It would be a travesty…utter tragedy, if there are once again no sports for a season. So many have lost so much. It’s not just the seniors. All athletes have pushed their bodies and minds past limits they didn’t know possible, all to represent their school and teammates in athletic competition.
We need fall sports! We also need to do it safely. Take whatever precautions feasible to make it happen. Don’t force anyone to participate that doesn’t want to. And let these kids do what they love doing – representing their school in great athletic competition.
It appears on the onset that IF the fall season gets canceled, it will be individual school(s) that make that decision. Ultimately, once one school makes that choice, others seem to follow suit.