Let’s support our athletes, by keeping everyone safe

When COVID-19 shut down schools, sports and athletic activities last spring, everyone was taken by surprise. We had heard about a disease that originated in China, but most of us didn’t expect it not only arrive but change the world as we’d known it.

On the list of those affected were high school athletes, some of whom lost most, if not all, of their senior seasons. High school sports, along with activities like band and clubs, are integral to most students’ high school experiences. Some will go on to play collegiately, but for many athletes, high school is the pinnacle of their achievement, as well as a milestone to pass on their way to becoming adults.

This week marks a continuation, or new beginning, for Santa Rosa County athletes. Games, matches and swim meets are back on the calendar, with changes to protect athletes and fans. District personnel released specifics last week and are hoping that everyone does their part to keep sports safe for all involved. They are generous, considering the situation, allowing for parents and spectators to enjoy the events. But they are not an open invitation to crowd together, leave masks at home or surround athletes with adoring fans after a home football game.

Common sense and a concern for others are at the root of the new requirements.

There will be limits on the number of spectators. Masks are required to enter an athletic event as a spectator. Few additional personnel, and no spectators, will be allowed on the sidelines. And when competition is over, spectators are being asked to clear the premises.

Is that the same as in previous years? No. Is it inconvenient, maybe even uncomfortable? Yes. Is it necessary? Officials think so and it’s the community’s obligation to honor their requests.

That Friday night football or Saturday afternoon swim meets are even an option this year is cause for celebration. And if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that our children matter. Their safety is important, as well as the safety of those they come into contact with, including teachers, coaches, family members and friends.

So whether they’re taking to the links, climbing onto the starting blocks or donning protective pads, we wish them all luck and a season that lasts as long as possible.

We can’t get last spring back, but let’s do everything we can to make sure our athletes have success this fall.

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