Rising senior running back and safety Brandon Roberts completes a drill during a June 23 practice on the Sunny Hills baseball field. (Andrew Ngo / The Accolade)
Sunny Hills High School

Opinion: We don’t deserve the return of high school sports until we solve this pandemic

When sports camps in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District were allowed to resume on June 15, I visited a few of the practices to take pictures, and it reminded me how much I missed high school sports. 

Then, on July 6, a letter from the Orange County Department of Education shut down sports all over again.

I still miss sports. 

I miss the sound of the ball making contact with the catcher’s mitt, the bounce of a basketball on the hardwood and the roar of the crowd. 

I miss the adrenaline rush of a playoff game, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. 

I miss standing on the sidelines under Friday night lights, frantically tweeting out game updates and rehearsing interviews in my head. 

But as much as I hate to say it, high school sports won’t be returning as soon as we thought they might be. 

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise in Orange County, and county leaders on the Board of Supervisors and Board of Education have drawn ire for their opinions on how to deal with the issue, according to the L.A. Times.

Earlier this week, these leaders’ sentiments were brought to national attention when the Orange County Board of Education Trustees voted to approve a white paper that discouraged masks and social distancing in classrooms in a 4-1 vote.

During the July 13 meeting broadcasted over Zoom and YouTube, a few of the public comments from county constituents referenced the supposed “need” for high school athletics to return. As someone who has been following and reporting on coronavirus-related sports cancellations since March, these comments caught my attention, and quite frankly — they were appalling. 

One speaker said her son, who plays football and baseball, lost his motivation to train and began misbehaving. 

She, along with several other speakers, suggested that bringing back athletics in full force could solve these issues. 

Although I recognize that these parents want nothing but the best for their children, there will be a time when all athletes retire from their sports. Just over 7% of high school athletes will find themselves on a varsity roster in college, and fewer than 2% of those athletes will compete professionally. 

It’s time to face the real world, and unfortunately, the real world does not care whether or not you get to play your sports season. Right now, the real world is throwing a global pandemic at us, and we’re letting it hit us right in the mouth.

But maybe they’re right — the speaker’s son might feel a little better, but what about the teachers and coaches that will be at risk of contracting the coronavirus? 

During the Orange County Board of Education Trustees meeting, a few of the public commenters did bring up these health concerns, including a teary-eyed woman who spoke of her sister — a public school teacher in Newport Beach who is immunocompromised because of a bone marrow transplant that she gave to a student.

With the exception of Trustee Beckie Gomez, the lone dissenter in the Board’s vote, the Board Trustees largely disregarded the subject and approved the white paper, an action that felt more similar to a half-finished school project than a vetted document from elected officials.

I understand the desire to return to normalcy, but we can’t ignore the issue at hand and hope that this virus will magically disappear. If you choose to be ignorant and turn a blind eye to the global pandemic that has killed more than 136,000 people in the U.S., then you are also choosing to let the coronavirus take more victims. 

Simply put, we need to take some personal responsibility for ourselves. 

Listen to the experts. Care for your neighbor. Have compassion. 

Last month, 43,000 fans in New Zealand attended a sold-out rugby match, according to Reuters. Why can’t we high school sports practices but they can pack the stands with a fan in every seat?

They earned it. They wore their masks and practiced social distancing. They took personal responsibility for the well-being of others, and they get to reap the rewards of it. 

It’s time to stop acting like children — so we can let our actual children return to the activities they love.

So you want high school sports to return? You better start acting like it.