#WEWantToPlay Movement sparked Amid Growing Threat of Fall Sports Cancellation

OPINION – Here we go again…a nearly five-month hiatus of high school sports finally gave us a handful of local softball games and a glimmer of hope. Amid continuing speculation that the fall season might start, but won’t finish, is gaining steam thanks to decisions made at the NCAA level. The threat looms larger than ever of cancellations, which has sparked a #WeWantToPlay movement started by Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence on Sunday night.

Smaller athletic conferences began to shut down, moving their fall sports to the spring (good luck with that logistical nightmare). Then D-III and D-II in one fell swoop took out fall sports. Then Division-I programs announced cancellations of fall sports, which leads to the peer pressure that we call a domino effect. Rather than fight, most schools and conferences feel pressured to follow suit.

We’re already seeing this at the high school level now, as county after county is announcing shut-downs or cancellations. Which dwindles it down to fewer teams playing in the fall and the inevitable could once again become reality for fall sports as we know it.

The GHSA has continued to monitor these changes, and weekly meets to discuss ways in which programs can continue to play while jumping through all necessary hoops to remain safe in doing so.

Here enters the problem. Teams are doing just about everything humanly possible, meeting in some cases ridiculous standards all for one sole purpose – to play games. But there may be no reward for all the efforts.

A cancellation in this case is to throw to wayside months of planning and preparation and months of adhering to safety guidelines and regulations. Volleyball and softball have some of the wildest guidelines that teams are doing everything they can to meet. But they are meeting them. Cancellations would be detrimental to the mental health and yes, even physical safety, of these students. Recent studies show that two out of every three high school athletes are depressed and/or anxious over the looming threats of cancelling their seasons that they worked so hard for. For most of these kids, to cancel their season would leave a permanent scar on their childhoods, especially to once again do this to seniors who are hoping for one more season with their friends. For a very large percentage, high school sports is the final time they get to be athletes and be on a team.

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On Sunday night, after the MAC Conference announced a cancellation of fall sports, speculation creeped in that within 72 hours (which would be Wednesday), all Power Five programs would follow (SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12). Within an hour, teams and players, consisting of Athletic Directors, the biggest stars in college sports, fans, etc took to social media with a #WeWantToPlay movement. It is real, and it is loud….but will it matter?

Decisions continue to be made for everyone. It’s time people step up if they want to be heard. Lawrence penned it perfectly (see tweet thread below)

The key points Lawrence makes are valid – players are just as safe playing than not playing, they are more motivated if playing, and most kids need the outlet of sports. It’s not just football – it’s all sports. These kids deserve better than for some over-arching organizations to sweep down and decide for these kids what they can and cannot do.

Many people who have no relation to high school sports do not understand the implications. It’s really any extracurricular activity, not just sports. A kid with nothing to do is a dangerous thing. It’s not good for the communities, families, or schools. Mental health HAS to be a consideration at this point. The CDC stated so weeks ago, urging states to open their schools. The risk factor for these kids to contract COVID and suffer serious symptoms remains minute as compared to the number of kids already suffering from stress, anxiety, and yes – depression.

Local high school coaches and players of all sports (not just fall) already picked up on the movement Sunday night, tweeting out #WeWantToPlay messages, explaining they have worked their whole life for these precious moments to be on the field/court of play with their teammates and friends. While there’s no guarantee of the #WeWantToPlay movement making a difference, it might be the last hope if there is to be a fall season at all.

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