Will Addington: Student-athlete advocates for fall sports season

Will Addington: Student-athlete advocates for fall sports season

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Will Addington, 16, a junior at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. 

To the Governor’s Office and the Vermont Principals Association, 

I am writing to you on behalf of the Burr and Burton football team. We are asking you to publicly commit to having a sports season in the fall. We have put together multiple points on why this should be something for the people in charge to act on. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen our sports and studies get slowly taken away from us little by little. We have determined that we must act so that our voices can be heard. We hope you take serious consideration on this matter. The future of our youth is in your hands, and your decision will affect the lives of student-athletes across the state. 

Firstly, we commit to taking all safety measures necessary to have a season. It is no secret that things will be different, but we are willing to adjust to ensure that we get to play. We can mandate masks on buses, take temperatures every day, and closely monitor contact. We will only be playing teams from Vermont and travel can be minimized by having North and South teams meet in the middle. The players, coaches, and medical staff at our schools are more than capable and willing to take the needed steps to have a season. 

Secondly, sports participation directly relates to better health and education among students. A Youth Risk Behavior Study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has shown that students who play sports are less likely to engage in activities such as smoking and drinking. The sports environment tasks students with responsibility, thus resulting in better decision-making. The study also found that sports directly relate to lower rates of obesity and diabetes. 

Beyond physical health benefits, playing a sport can also help in the classroom. A study by the National Federation of State Highschool Associations found that sports team participation independently related to a higher GPA among students. The state must acknowledge that this issue is deeper than just being able to throw the football. It is about shaping our youth into more responsible, successful, and hard working students. 

Another consideration is the option of higher education. Most colleges recruit during the junior or senior years of the fall sports season. Other states have the option of delaying until the winter because of their warmer weather, but there is no possibility of a delay in Vermont, and a cancellation would shatter the dreams and opportunities of playing at a higher level. 

Once again, this goes beyond the sport itself. It gives people an opportunity to attain monetary help for a more affordable education. Pre-Covid, the poverty rate in Vermont was around 11{09c3c849cf64d23af04bfef51e68a1f749678453f0f72e4bb3c75fcb14e04d49}. Many of those 11{09c3c849cf64d23af04bfef51e68a1f749678453f0f72e4bb3c75fcb14e04d49} make up our student population. An ending of our sports seasons could effectively be ending a way out of poverty for many of our kids. 

We are the only state in New England that has postponed sports. This means all of the local schools will look to other states for players while we Vermonters are left in the mud. It is extremely important that we do not cut off the great opportunities that sports offer in a student’s life. 

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As I write this letter, I fully understand that taking this stance will warrant lots of backlash. People will accuse us of being “selfish,” “not reading the facts,” or “not taking the virus seriously.” I am not a medical professional, but I have done plenty of research that suggests we can have a safe season. 

First off, there will be some worries about the safety of our children. So far, Covid has been much safer for students than the average flu. In fact 188 people under 24 have died from Covid, compared to an estimated 643 deaths for those under 18 from the flu in the 2017-18 season. (Most recent available data CDC flu; CDC Covid). 

Despite this data, the biggest reason for the shutdown was to protect the older and vulnerable population in our country. However, the WHO has stated that asymptomatic spread is “very rare.” A preprint research review cited by the WHO has estimated at highest a 2.2{09c3c849cf64d23af04bfef51e68a1f749678453f0f72e4bb3c75fcb14e04d49} asymptomatic transmission rate, and suggested that “asymptomatic spread is unlikely to be a major driver of clusters or community transmission of infection.” To add to this, recent evidence is showing that kids have a lower viral load, which results in milder symptoms and less transmission. Hence why children are far less likely to be infected. This is thought to be because of the gene expressions of the ACE2 receptors, which SARS-COV-2 uses for host entry.  

Another point that will be made against us is “How are you going to social distance?”, “You can’t wear masks,” “You’re too piled up on each other.” These arguments will be especially prevalent against football. As I stated earlier, there will need to be changes made to ensure safety. For our case, I suggest the Schutt “Splash Shield” facemask that prevents the spread of particles by covering the nose, mouth and eyes of the helmet with a clear visor. Although it will not block air particles, we have seen positive evidence from the national protests. 

A study showed that there was no relationship between the packed protests and a Covid spike. This information suggests that transmission through air particles is rare outdoors. If thousands can gather while chanting, yelling, screaming, etc., then players on sidelines should be able to do the same. All of this information should be made more easily accessible for the public, and I hope that our medical professionals can look at this evidence as a positive step for fall sports. 

As the state makes its decisions on this upcoming season, I ask you all to please properly weigh all options. We students do not make the rules, we do not get to discuss our options, and we do not make the final decision. I wrote this letter as a way for our voice to be heard. It is time that our state makes decisions in confidence, instead of fear. We ask you to be confident in our coaching staffs, our nurses, trainers, and most importantly, our students. We ask you to be confident that we will do whatever it takes to play our season. We ask you to be confident in the work that we have put in and will continue to put in for our sports. I have full faith that Phil Scott along with all others involved will do the right thing by committing to a full sports season in the fall of 2020. 

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