COLUMN: With lost seasons last year, spring sports should be available for all

Almost one year ago, the balls stopped bouncing in high school gymnasiums, performing arts events were canceled and moved online, and spring sports were finished before most schools could even start.

March Madness took on a new meaning as schools had to deal with a new opponent — the novel coronavirus that put entire lives on hold for months.

While the timing on returning to sports and performing arts has varied from state to state, a full return is almost completed. The progression of state tournaments in basketball, wrestling, swimming and diving, and ice hockey is underway in many states. While the number of spectators has been reduced, millions of high school students have been able to return to competition.

Perhaps even more significant is that participants in the spring sports of track and field, baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and golf will be able to re-engage with their teammates after the lost seasons in 2020 — or will they?

Although there is an expectation that these traditional spring sports will return in 2021 in all states, we have heard reports that the sizes of squads are being controlled in some cases by holding tryouts in sports that, in many cases, have had unlimited participation in the past.

In track and field, some schools that previously did not limit squad size are conducting tryouts due to an increase in the number of students interested in competing, a reduced number of coaches available to direct the program, or COVID-19 protocols that have made handling larger groups more challenging. And even more, some middle schools are conducting tryouts in track and field and turning away seventh — and eighth-graders who don’t make the cut — kids who may never return to athletics again.

The same scenario is occurring in middle school and high school performing arts programs in some cases, where participation levels are already down 40 to 50 percent due to the pandemic.

Undoubtedly, many schools have been affected from a financial standpoint by the pandemic. When budgets are reduced, cuts have to be made in some areas; however, those cuts should not come at the expense of high school students who are interested in competing in a sport or activity.

While everyone on a team may not be able to play in a game due to the nature of the sport, creative measures should be utilized to retain all students who are interested — if at all possible. In the case of spring sports where students were unable to compete last year due to the pandemic, not allowing them to participate for a second year because they don’t “measure up” could be devastating.

Middle school and the early years of high school represent the opportune time to engage students in sports and activities such as music and theatre and speech. This is a pivotal time in the lives of 13- to 16-year-olds. Involvement in middle school and high school activity programs could play a positive role in shaping their future lives.

Many high school tennis programs have maintained no-cut programs for years, and, with some creativity, we believe this could be done in a lifetime sport like track and field. Likely, some parents competed in high school track and would be glad to volunteer their services. The school’s booster club could be utilized to assist with some of the additional costs. Many individuals would be willing to assist if they knew it was the difference between some kids remaining on the team or being sent home because they didn’t survive the tryout.

Cutting a middle school or high school student from a track and field team or a music group could end the student’s involvement in those activities for a lifetime, and it could be a serious blow to the student’s self-confidence.

We recognize that there are some sports or activities and certain situations where it may not be possible, but we urge school administrators and coaches to be creative with the funds available to let all students who have a desire to be involved in high school activities to remain on the team.

This decision may not affect whether the team wins, but it absolutely could be the victory of a lifetime for those students.

 

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is starting her third year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Dowagiac

Round Oak’s impact on Dowagiac still felt 60 years later

Dowagiac

Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac reach fundraising requirements for Russom Park Pavilion Project

Dowagiac

Rotarian Walter Swann discusses life, community outreach

Cass County

Three Rivers man sentenced to probation for meth possession

Cass County

Edwardsburg man sentenced to one year for assault

Cass County

Cass County hosting workshop about child abuse prevention

Berrien County

Spectrum Health Lakeland revises visitor guidelines

Berrien County

Gov. Whitmer asks residents to take COVID-19 precautions, high schools to suspend in-person activities

Cassopolis

Cassopolis couple working to get musical nonprofit off the ground

Berrien County

Berrien County commissioners approve 911 grant

Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg/Ontwa Township Police Log: March 29 to April 5

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 723,297 cases, 16,400 deaths

Cass County

Cass County 4-H offering painting program

Berrien County

Johnson and Johnson vaccine clinic to be hosted at Niles-Buchanan YMCA

Berrien County

Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS encourage spring break travelers to get tested for COVID-19

Berrien County

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Day taking place next week at LMC campus

Dowagiac

Dowagiac District Library hosting poetry contest

Education

Edwardsburg chamber fundraising to donate personalized tumblers to graduating seniors

Business

Niles DDA takes on NODE expenses

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 715,478 cases, 16,327 deaths

Berrien County

Niles man hospitalized after motorcycle, SUV crash

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: April 2-4

News

State approves Niles social district

Cassopolis

Bureau of Land Management to offer wild horses, burros for adoption, sale at Cassopolis event