The decision of whether West Virginia’s High School teams will play fall sports in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is going to be a tough one.
In the last week or so, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission moved the first day of football practice from Aug. 3 to Aug. 17, canceled the first week of the football season and moved the start of all the other sports back to Sept. 3 or later.
Other changes include setting a travel team for some of the sports to reduce the number of kids traveling and other things like, say in volleyball, the teams won’t switch sides between sets as to avoid the close contact from the switches. There are other changes, like requiring players to bring their own water bottles.
All of these changes are good ideas I’ll admit, but they all just kind of seem full of sound and fury and appear to signify very little.
None of this means anything in this era of social media where bad news spreads like a wildfire in the midst of a drought.
You see, it’s tricky. COVID-19 is a virus that affects most people in the same manner as a mild upper respiratory infection. In some cases, some people don’t even know they have been infected. But for the elderly and some people with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, asthma and other conditions that would weaken their immune systems, COVID-19 can prove deadly.
Most kids could catch the virus and recover in a matter of days and be perfectly fine. But not all kids are guaranteed to be safe.
It’s a numbers game.
More than likely, some kid playing a high school sport somewhere in West Virginia will have some condition that’s gone undiagnosed and may die from COVID-19.
All it takes is one student athlete.
Forget the other 99.9 percent of the other kids who were perfectly fine. That one athlete will be memorialized on everyone’s Facebook page.
And when you consider that the Virginia High School League canceled its fall season, as did many local college conferences, like the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, of which Shepherd is a member, parents and the media are going to have a field day ripping into the WVSSAC and the school systems for endangering these athletes.
Just as easily, the whole fall season could be played and nothing happens and it’s hailed as a great success.
Another complication could be that some student athletes have been infected but are unaware and on road games, infect other communities where the healthcare infrastructure is lacking.
That could be yet another mess to untangle.
Speaking of difficult tasks, aren’t our schools going to have a hard enough time trying to work out plans to reopen this fall for, you know, school?
There’s likely going to be a mixture of virtual and in-school learning. Educators are going to have their hands full figuring out social distancing and hygienic practices, along with the right mix of home and on-site learning.
This is all going to be unchartered territory for our teachers and other education professionals. Athletics will be yet another curve ball to throw at them.
Sports are often lauded as a way to teach youngsters life lessons.
This lesson will be about risk versus reward.
Life itself is a risk.
Business owners take risks all the time. They put their money and their time up for opportunities that may or may not pan out.
There are no guarantees in anything.
The decision to play sports — or not — in the fall is a gamble.
The question that needs to be asked is whether the reward is worth the risk.
It’s highly doubtful that anyone in education is going to be comfortable with risking even one youngster’s life.
While it may appear that the WVSSAC is trying to move forward with fall sports and find a way to play, these latest moves might be a delay tactic in an effort to buy time and not make a tough decision until it’s absolutely necessary.
It’s hard to blame the officials at the WVSSAC. Parents and athletes are going to rip them if they end up calling the season.
I don’t see how they win.
Maybe something happens between now and Aug. 17 that changes everything.
Good luck with that.
Griffin covered sports for 15 years as a reporter and a sports editor and is currently the managing editor for the Spirit.