Playing sports ultimately family choice


One of the most frustrating things in life can be inconsistency.

People don’t like being told they can’t do something when they can see someone else just as qualified getting that same opportunity.

So, imagine the frustration of a high school golfer or girls tennis player if the PIAA had decided to tell them they couldn’t participate in their sport this fall after they have been doing it all summer in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, apparently safely.

Thankfully, Dr. Robert Lombardi and his board went ahead with sports Friday afternoon at the PIAA’s board meeting by a vote of 25-5. It will now be up to individual school districts to decide whether fall sports are the right call in their cities and towns.

The decision went against Gov. Tom Wolf’s strong recommendation that scholastic sports not take place until Jan. 1, 2021.

Shortly after that recommendation, I covered a Lakemont Park Summer League basketball game that included Penn Cambria senior Carter Smith. We had a conversation following his game, and I asked him if it was frustrating that he was allowed to battle for rebounds for the past hour against kids he was playing from another county but that he possibly wouldn’t be allowed to play football against those same kids a couple weeks later.

He told me it was and mentioned the magic word of inconsistency. He said losing his senior football season would be devastating, and part of it would have been not understanding how a recreational league was allowed but a scholastic season was not.

In the end, Lombardi and his colleagues felt the same way.

When Gov. Wolf’s recommendation in early August blindsided the PIAA, Lombardi’s words during the board meeting that followed expressed frustration on how many local leagues across the state were being conducted with much less safety regulations than the plans the PIAA had in place for this upcoming season.

It was the inconsistency that bothered Lombardi and apparently 25 of the 30 board members that voted Friday.

Personally, I don’t think there’s a blanket answer on whether kids should play any sport, much less football, this fall.

I think back to another conversation I had with a local parent this summer when I attended the Emily Whitehead Foundation’s Tee-Off for T-Cells golf tournament at the Philipsburg Elks.

Tom Whitehead, Emily’s father, didn’t bring Emily to the event for the first time. He told me he also likely wouldn’t be sending her back to school this fall if it was held in person as she’s had to go through a much-publicized battle with cancer since she was a small child and it was too much of a risk for her immune system.

At the same time, Whitehead spoke to me about how he hoped to see his nephews, Ryan and Jeremy, compete in sports at Philipsburg-Osceola.

The PIAA may have left the decision on whether or not to play fall sports up to each school district on Friday, but the true choice will actually lie with each athlete and their parents.

Unfortunately, kids in this area will test positive for COVID-19. Cambria Heights announced one of its cross country runners tested positive this week. But those athletes may also end up with the virus from simply attending classes or stopping for a soda at a convenience store on the way home from school.

The final decision should always come down to if the family thinks the opportunity is worth the risk and the family’s willingness to accept the consequences while keeping all the other factors like possibly putting other people at risk into the equation as well.

It’s a decision I’d hate to make. Good luck, parents.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael


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