Sports During A Pandemic? Not My Child

Posted on July 23, 2020


Some teams have begun working out at local athletic fields. I bicycled through an area where tens of child and teen athletes, under supervision of adult coaches, were working out. Everyone there was unmasked; none maintained physical distancing; it seemed as if they hadn’t heard of COVID19.
“Uh-oh,” I thought, picked up my pace, and made a mental note to avoid that section of the bike trail. I started to think about what I would do if I had minor children who wanted to participate in sports.
If I had school-aged children, they would not attend in-person group activities, because I have not seen convincing evidence that in-person activities present zero or low risk of contracting COVID19. Walking, running, bicycling, swimming, yoga, dance, and many other activities can be done safely, alone, or with people one lives with, while interacting with friends online or not. I would help my kids find ways to engage in physical activities without risk of exposure to COVID19.
I raised my kids without TV or internet. I rejected TV, and in-home internet wasn’t available until they were teens, and it was of limited use then. How did we do it?

We played, did chores, cooked, went to parks, landmarks, and cemeteries, did art and crafts, listened to music, watched videos, gardened, worked on home improvement projects, wrote personal journals, letters, academic pieces, and creative pieces, studied science, musicology, geography, biology, architecture, history, sociology, psychology, mythology, religion, politics, government, education, literature, media, etc. We talked. We played board games. We imagined.

Boredom is not a negative experience for human beings; it is what drives us to IMAGINE. Nowadays, with the power of a cell phone, bored kids can tune in to live sessions and learn from experts in a huge number of fields, from around the world–OR watch a recorded video. They can follow the experts on social media and even engage them in conversations. They can create content, in real life or virtually, and publish it to the world from their own media outlets. They can virtually visit many museums around the world, tour ancient ruins or contemporary cities, and learn almost any skill. They can participate in online petition campaigns, letter writing, debates and discussions, webinars, fund-raising, advocacy, and activism. They can play games alone or online that allow them to explore real and fictional worlds and have amazing adventures. When they’re stressed, they can meditate with a master. If they’re bored, they need to explore, until they find the passions that make them want to learn a lot more.
When I see parents weighing a child’s complaint of “boredom” against keeping them as far away as possible from exposure to a deadly disease, I think about how Anne Frank’s family handled their “quarantine.” I think of all the children in ICE cages at the US border. I think of the children who have died and the continued spread of COVID19, now increasing its reach into my social media circle in my local community…and I have to reject “boredom” as a valid reason to risk a child’s life–or that of loved ones who may be exposed by that child at home.

The Lenawee County published the following guidelines for Public Health:

“based on the language from section 14 of Executive Order 2020-110 and given the inability to maintain 6 feet of distance at all times, very few team sports are permissible at this time. Team sports such as baseball, softball, football, lacrosse, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc. must be limited to outdoor practices and conditioning that allow for 6 feet of social distancing at all times; competition in these sports does not allow for physical distancing at all times.”

Taking this information into consideration, I realize that nothing could convince me to sign a waiver stating that I know that my child could contract a fatal disease while participating in a sport.

Parents can help a bored child find engaging activities. We can help them find safe ways to maintain social connections and physical and mental well-being during quarantine. It’s not easy, but I’ve got to believe it’s easier than dealing with the immediate risk and life-long effects of COVID19–on the child and the others they could infect.

If my minor child asked to participate in face-to-face group activities right now, I’d have to say, “I’m sorry, but I have to say a hard NO. It’s not worth the risk to you or the family. We’re going to #StayHomeStaySafe. It’s the best choice for your health, the health of our family, AND for public health right now. When we reach the point of several weeks with no new infections in our area, then we can start talking about resuming group activities.”

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lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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