By Travis Mounts, managing editor
At the start of nearly every sporting event conducted under the auspices of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, you will hear something similar to this:
“Activity programs are primarily for the student participants. The purpose of this activity is to provide positive learning experiences and opportunities for personal growth of the participants. Officials, players, coaches and spectators are expected to assist in the promotion and achievement of good sportsmanship ideals by taking personal responsibility for keeping this contest at a high level of fair, clean, wholesome competition.”
The first sentence is by far the most important, and needs to be kept in mind as the upcoming winter season begins without spectators in attendance.
“Activity programs are primarily for the student participants.”
In August, when the idea of a sports season was in question and some school districts said they would not even play sports in the fall, parents and fans screamed to do whatever it takes to let the kids play.
Three months later, it’s all at risk due to the choices that we, the adults have made – or refused to make – since school began. COVID-19 cases are spiraling in urban, suburban and rural areas. Just over the weekend, there were 4,425 new cases statewide, with 81 new hospitalizations and 31 deaths.
It has been tough for school personnel. Too many people took off their masks at fall sports events, or refused to wear them properly. Social media pointed out a person at one Sedgwick County football game who was wearing a fishnet mask as a form of protest. At the events I went to, noses hanging out and people wearing “chin diapers” were far too common.
Meanwhile, the youth have been setting an example that too many adults are unable or, more accurately, unwilling to follow. They have repeatedly violated all safety protocols after games, and too often created issues during games.
The data show the students are doing their part. At this writing, I have yet to see any confirmed cases of transmission on the fields
and courts, and believe me when I say I have been looking. Schools are reporting that nearly all of the students that have come down with COVID-19 are catching it elsewhere. Most students who have to miss school and playing time must do so as close contacts, not as positive cases.
For all of these reasons, school officials are worried about the winter season. KSHSAA’s original plan would have paused all
activities, sports and otherwise, until mid-January. That proposal was pared back during last week’s KSHSAA board of directors meeting.
The board, made up primarily of various school officials across the state, were not of a single mind. I listened to most of last week’s meeting, which lasted more than four hours. At times, it felt like some of the worst city council meetings I’ve covered, but there were nearly 80 council members instead of the normal five.
But the main votes – including the one to proceed without fans – were by roughly 2-1 margins, and in this day and age that’s as close as you get to an overwhelming decision.
The coaches I visited with were in agreement: the kids are OK moving forward without fans if it means they can play.
If fans want to have a chance to return before the season is over, then right now is the time to really show your support for the kids. That means wearing your mask, staying distant, avoiding gatherings, and show support for the kids, coaches and administrators who all want the best for the student athletes.
The kids are doing their part – the rest of us need to our part, too.