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Posts Tagged ‘building memories’

Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Director Mick Hoffman is calling for a safe return to play for state prep athletes. (Photo courtesy WIAA)

School sports and activities are needed now more than ever.

That’s the message the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association wants to send to Governor Jay Inslee as we hit nine months with no high school or middle school games.

Thursday, WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman issued an opinion piece, which we’re sharing in its entirety.

 

Ever since I was lucky enough to become the Executive Director at the WIAA, I’ve told our staff and membership that we are in the memory-making business.

Those memories can be made in any town, large or small, in any sport or activity, at a mid-week practice, a senior night, or a State Championship final. 

As a former coach and teacher, I had the opportunity to be a part of those memories and I’ve seen firsthand that high school is defined as much by what you learn outside of the classroom as what you learn in it.

Coaches and athletic directors, along with those of us at the WIAA, have long championed the value of education-based athletics and activities.

Everyone has heard how competition can build character, teach discipline and life lessons, and connect students with peers and their communities.

These are more than just talking points or “coach-speak” because now, in the absence of these extracurricular activities, it has never been more clear how much they are needed.

Parents can see the outsized toll this sudden change in life has taken on our kids.

It has diminished our sense of joy, created anxiety over our safety and wellbeing, and stolen what will soon be a full year of our lives.

While there is conclusive evidence about the physical dangers of this virus among certain age groups and demographics, the Governor’s Office and Department of Health must factor in the impact restrictions have on our students’ mental and emotional health.

A University of Wisconsin study found in July that approximately 68% of 3,243 student-athletes surveyed, which included Washington students, reported feelings of anxiety and depression at levels that would typically require medical intervention.

That was a 37% increase from pre-pandemic levels.

We are fighting a disease we have never seen before and one we know little about.

This fall, schools in Washington chose not to offer sports and activities in accordance with the Governor’s recommendation.

At the time, we had little information on the risk of extracurricular activities in relation to COVID. Now, research from around the country allows us to make decisions on real data.

The University of Wisconsin found that, in a sample of 30,000 high school athletes, only 271 COVID-19 cases were reported, with 0.5% of those cases traced back to sports contact.

In New Jersey, EDP Soccer managed 10 youth soccer tournaments in the state as well as multiple soccer leagues along the East Coast.

In approximately 318,500 games, no COVID-19 cases were attributed to participation.

Right here in Washington, Seattle United Soccer Club had 1,930 boys and girls participate in its programs this summer for two months of training.

In total, two of those players contracted the virus and both of those came from community transmission, outside of sport.

These examples of students returning to sports are not meant to diminish the havoc and loss that this virus has caused.

They are meant to show that if we work together and take the proper precautions, we can return to offering these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

We know this because it has already been done.

These are challenging times, absolutely, but there is no hiding from this pandemic.

We’ve heard the hesitancy among superintendents: “How can we offer athletics when we haven’t returned to in-person learning?”

This is not a logistical question. It is a question regarding optics and politics.

I understand the hesitancy based on the stance of their communities. However, we must focus on the values and interconnectivity of extracurricular activities.

Education-based sports and activities have always been a key component of our school system.

We cannot eliminate one portion of a student’s education because we had to modify another.

Aside from the inherent values that come with athletic and activity participation, students who compete in high school have shown to achieve higher grades, increase motivation and engagement, and improve the overall high school experience.

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence from our schools as well.

Administrators in large school districts are reporting three times the number of students earning failing grades this year with all the challenges we face.

Students are not attending on a regular basis or, in some cases, at all.

This has been a difficult time for students, teachers and everyone working to educate our children.

Returning to competition will not be a cure-all, but, in a time where students have become disconnected from their education, we know athletics and activities can help them re-engage.

This call to action is not coming from a place of self-preservation or self-interest.

While the WIAA itself has taken a financial hit during the pandemic, I am confident the organization is positioned to survive these hard times and thrive when we return to normality.

A return to play this year without fans in attendance likely makes for a more difficult financial situation.

But that is not what this is about.

We have seen education-based athletics and activities take place successfully throughout the country.

The state of Washington has demonstrated we can develop and execute safety measures during the pandemic.

Our athletic directors and coaches have proven they are committed to ensuring the safety of student-participants and complying with state-mandated regulations. 

We must allow students to participate under the supervision of their school leaders and coaches and the WIAA is prepared to assist in navigating that process.

There is no safer place for a student than our schools, before and during this pandemic. 

Not to mention schools offer the most equitable opportunities for students of all skill levels and financial means.

Restricting the ability of schools forces students and families to pursue avenues that are cost prohibitive and have fewer safety measures.

I understand that as I write this, we are seeing another surge in COVID cases around the country as well as in Washington, and that we may need to wait before we begin competition again.

But we cannot wait until COVID goes away because students don’t have that luxury.

They’re running out of time to make memories.

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(John Fisken photo)

   Freshmen, embrace the chance to have moments like this in your future. (John Fisken photo)

There is no good reason not to play basketball.

None.

Well, maybe two broken legs. But, other than that, nope, none.

As rumors sweep the land of a mass pre-season exodus from the Coupeville High School girls’ basketball program, primarily by a talented, confident and cohesive freshman class, I wish, for a moment, that those players who are deciding to prematurely end their careers could hop in a time machine.

Go forward ten, twenty years and you will discover what every former high school athlete knows in their later years.

What will haunt you in your later days is the opportunities you passed on, the chances you didn’t take, the memories you didn’t build.

When you speak to those who spent their school days at CHS — whether they won multiple Athlete of the Year awards and went on to play college ball or appeared in a handful of games — they almost always echo the thoughts of Wolf legend Marlene Grasser.

“I don’t remember awards, but do remember the fantastic experiences with my teammates,” Grasser said. “My best memories are all involving team sports. I looked forward to practices every day and the games were a blast.

“I loved my teammates and our mutual competitiveness and cohesiveness,” she added. “It is probably what I miss the most and was the hardest to let go of when I graduated.”

You have a unique opportunity in this town, at this time.

Coupeville sports teams aren’t cutting anyone, and we have a group of coaches (in all sports) who have shown a remarkable touch in making sure every athlete, from top to bottom talent-wise, has a chance to shine.

Makana Stone has shattered school records and is justly applauded, but the biggest roar I have heard at any Wolf sporting event in the past two-plus years was when Julia Felici scored the only basket of her high school basketball career.

A pass-first, second and pretty much always player who was usually looking to set up her teammates, Felici was the last girl on the Coupeville JV girls’ hoops squad to have not collected a basket.

Gently prodded by Wolf coach Amy King, Felici finally put up a shot late in the season.

Actually, she suddenly morphed into Kobe Bryant for one remarkable play, driving, stopping and popping, surprising herself more than anyone.

As the ball swished through the net, the student section went nuts. The parents lost it. King came unglued and the smile on Felici’s face is still there, two years later.

It is a scene played out across the board in numerous sports at CHS.

And, with the rise of Coupeville Sports, you have something else you won’t find at Archbishop Thomas Murphy or King’s, much less at Chimacum.

Regardless of where you land on the talent scale, your exploits will be covered, your memories captured on film and in print.

When I played tennis at Tumwater, a 3A school in the day, I once played first varsity singles in a match against North Mason. Not a single letter of my name appeared in the newspaper.

Now, here, even if you’re camping on the bench, you’re getting a feature story, several mentions in game stories and, very likely, frequent appearances in behind-the-scenes photos.

All you have to do is play.

When I watched the Central Whidbey Little League softball sluggers pound on opposing teams this summer, ten-running all comers, it was like stepping back to the glory days of the late ’90s and early 2000’s.

As they took the field, the Venom players, most of whom are now CHS freshmen, did so with a team-wide confidence that no group of Wolf players had displayed since the days when players like Ashley Bagby-Ellsworth, Tina Lyness and the Black ‘n Blue sisters put those state tournament banners up on the gym wall.

These are exciting times for Wolf fans, and it would be a shame if many of the young women who have such a bright future as athletes, students and Cow Town residents, sit out the winter.

But, as fans and writers, we will survive.

We’ll cheer for the girls who play and write about their exploits, both on the court and in the side moments where camaraderie and memories are forged.

The practices where a skill suddenly blossoms. The pregame shenanigans. The time spent with each other in locker rooms, on buses, grabbing food after a game and terrorizing the Washington State ferry employees.

If you choose not to play, no one can force you to.

And, while a poor turnout would hurt the entire program, especially if it reaches the point where there aren’t enough players to field a JV, the ultimate decision sits in the hands of each young woman.

Young women who I hope look into the future and see what they will be missing if they pass on this opportunity.

Regret often lingers for a long time.

The memories you would make playing ball? Those would stay with you for a lifetime.

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The jobs will be waiting. Let them play now and build memories.

 The jobs will be waiting. Let them play now and build memories. (Collage created from John Fisken photos)

Jobs suck.

With rare exception, they are a necessary evil, something you have to do to survive in the adult world where bill-collectors expect you to pay for stuff like rent and electricity.

There are some of us, a very few, who find a job that is truly something we enjoy.

Being paid to watch movies for 15 years as a video store manager wasn’t terribly burdensome, I will admit, but then people had to go and screw up a good thing by deciding to virtually eliminate the entire industry.

Thanks. Thanks a whole freakin’ lot, you hosers.

But anyway, I understand the purpose of jobs, the necessity of them. We all have to give in sooner or later.

What does bother me is when parents decide that their high school children must go get a job at a time when it prevents them from being able to participate in sports or theater or other school activities.

Every family is different. Some families have a legitimate need for every person in the house to be bringing in money.

I have lived that, I understand that.

But when there is a choice, I think consideration should be paid to looking at the broad picture.

Everyone eventually works, and it goes on for the rest of your life. The time frame to play a sport is a limited one, however.

I would argue that the life lessons they would pick up on the softball field or the football gridiron, riding a bus to a basketball game in a faraway town or running sprints are just as important, sometimes more so, than the lesson that yes, you will have to have a job.

Sports force you to adapt, to work with others, to accept defeat while always working for victory. It sits you down next to people you may not like and, since you are wearing the same jersey, it makes you find common ground with them.

It teaches you that those in authority — the refs, in this case — can be fair or they can be incredibly biased and short-sighted, and you will have to deal with it.

In short, it teaches you everything you will need to know … about having a job. But if also gives you life-long memories of the type you’re not going to find tending the drive-thru at Taco Bell.

Years from now, Julia Myers will remember the night she hit a free throw with 9.9 seconds to play, lifting the Coupeville High School girls’ basketball team to its first playoff win in a very, very long time and sending her classmates in the stands swarming the floor afterwards.

Her teammates who were jumping up and down, screaming in joy as their hard work paid off, will always remember that night. Her friends, her family, her fans, will remember that night.

The kid who could have been on that court, on that bench, in that uniform, but who spent the night toiling for minimum wage somewhere because their parent felt it was necessary to prepare them for future life — they’re not going to give a crap five minutes after they left work, much less five months or five years down the road, whether those customers enjoyed their Whoppers or whether a dish that will be re-cleaned every three hours for eternity (or until it gets mercifully broken) came out of the dishwasher spotless that night.

Giving your children the chance to build memories, to learn lessons, to be part of something bigger than themselves, is huge.

If you can make that choice, it should be an easy one.

Let your children play while they have the chance. The jobs will still be there, waiting for them, the rest of their lives.

And, having let them play, they will be far better prepared to handle them.

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