OPINION: In support of the fall sports season

By Andrew Phalen, Sports Editor

While we won’t begin the school year in person amid the COVID pandemic, fall sports began official practices on Aug. 17.

Lawrence High School athletes chose to take the field, court and course to begin practice for their seasons. Despite the risk involved, fall sports are an important part of a lot of students’ lives. Athletes in the class of 2021 have worked their entire high school careers in order to compete one last time as seniors.

“It is important for students, especially seniors to participate in fall athletics because it is a chance for them to pursue their most anticipated season with teammates we have competed with for the past three years,” senior linebacker Cole Mondi said.

Juniors, sophomores and freshmen have also put in countless hours to be at their best this upcoming season. These opportunities to create lifelong friendships, garner college exposure and learn life lessons that can’t be taught anywhere else should not be taken away from these student-athletes.

Lawrence Public Schools and Lawrence High school are taking every precaution in order for this season to happen. Athletes across all sports are required to have pre-practice temperature checks and all students have been given a mask. When not performing a drill, athletes are wearing masks and maintaining proper social distancing. Equipment is either personal or is sanitized daily, and each sport has other specific rules in places to keep players and coaches safe.

“Speaking for the entire football team here at LHS, we are taking every precaution possible in order to keep our season alive and we will continue to do so,” junior offensive lineman Noah Smith said.

Education Unified Command, a decision-making group made up of Douglas County, City of Lawrence, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, LMH Health, the University of Kansas, Lawrence Public Schools and the Chamber announced Monday that because fewer than 5 percent of tests have came back positive, Douglas County is currently in the “green zone.” That means they recommend fall sports can continue assuming safety protocols are followed.

Other schools in the Sunflower League from areas that have been hit harder by COVID-19 have canceled or delayed their seasons. Those schools include the five Shawnee Mission schools and recently Gardner-Edgerton. This leaves Lawrence with Free State and the five Olathe schools left to start the season on time. Olathe will review athletics participation week by week.

Continuing with the current plan and allowing fall sports to occur is the correct call. Canceling fall sports would force uncommitted senior athletes looking to compete collegiately to lose their final season to show college coaches their abilities and improvements they have made in the offseason. Underclassmen would also lose a year of their recruiting process. For some students, athletic scholarships contribute heavily to whether or not they are able to attend college. Allowing athletes to compete this fall will open up opportunities that may not have been possible without their fall sport.

Another effect of cancelling this season would be the detrimental impact it would have on student-athletes mental health.

“Playing school volleyball is one of the things that makes my high school experience special to me,” junior volleyball middle Gianna Cooper said. “Being able to play the sport that I love surrounded by my teammates and coaches, who are now like family, is something I will really cherish.”

In a world where nothing is normal and people are divided over how to handle COVID-19, sports are something to unify the Lawrence High student body and let these students compete at the sports they love. The class of 2021 deserves one last chance to impress college coaches. Students who have competed together since elementary school deserve to have one last season together.

Our cross country, volleyball, football, soccer, tennis, gymnastics and golf athletes deserve the chance to compete this fall. Our fall sports athletes have a chance to restore a little bit of regularity to their lives in such an uncertain time.