Who Is Advocating For Our Children?
I began writing this post about the importance of community sports, specifically youth sports like baseball and soccer, in February before COVID hit hard. At the time, I was watching the impact that travel and club sports were having on community sports organizations. I wanted to appeal to our community businesses to donate to their local leagues; to encourage more families to get their kids involved in their local leagues; and to appeal to our travel and club organizations to support community sports on a deeper level rather than use them to fill their own rosters and coffers.
And I essentially wanted to celebrate all the good community leagues do to improve our society. Club and travel teams cannot or generally do not contribute in the same way.
But as COVID hit, I started seeing this issue in a different light. I’ve watched our politicians completely ignore our children from school to sports. They even banned camping, the ultimate social distancing activity. I am not saying easy answers exist to this very complicated problem, but complete neglect isn’t what I expected.
Sure, the first couple months were challenging with all the unknowns. But we are now approaching mid-June and it is clear to me not a single politician or leader in our community or our State actually cares about our kids. Which is crazy because most of our leaders have kids of their own! Some of them have kids in our leagues! Are they neglecting their own children also? I can only assume.
But first, my original point. Community sports have always played an important role in our communities and in the lives of our children. They bring our community together with a shared sense of purpose and a shared experience. They allow children of different demographics an affordable opportunity to fall in love with a sport they can participate in or follow their entire life. And they allow the children to be active in their community, to fall in love with that community, and ultimately become better stewards of it.
And, perhaps most importantly, community sports provide opportunities for children to be active in a world of inactivity, social in a world of online isolation, and present among friends when COVID has closed them off from society. Zoom just isn’t cutting it.
Before COVID, a growing trend nationwide, at least for demographics with money, is the abandonment of community focused sports like Little League and youth soccer. Some travel ball and club sport organizations even push their players to drop community sports (and high school sports) altogether, usually while the coach pitches a scholarship to some Junior College someday.
My kids play both community ball and travel ball, so I do have some fair perspective here. Yes, the competition is better in private organizations. Yes, the potential (athletic) growth is greater in private organizations. But the organizations don’t make them better members of their community.
But when we focus solely on these private organizations, community sports suffer and ultimately fail. Kids who just want to play ball for fun or part-time lose an incredible opportunity. Kids whose parents don’t have the money for a private organization simply find something else to do. Or not. My mom always said a busy kid didn’t get into trouble. She’s not wrong.
But the paradigm has changed. Travel and club sports aren’t the greatest threat to community sports. Politicians and our local leaders are!
After COVID, who knows? I can tell you the politicians don’t care. Sorry, of course they care. How silly of me. The politicians don’t ACT like they care. They just say they care, or that they are “working on it non-stop” as somebody recently told to me, so I would just accept my child’s fate and move on. These leagues are going to take major financial hits and major hits to their memberships. I can’t just move on.
Again, Who Is Advocating For Our Children?
We can spend a lot of time talking about the mental health benefits for children participating in sports, but our leaders have already made clear that the mental health of our children is not a priority in the least. They talk about protecting our children, but really aren’t doing anything to actually protect them, either mentally from being closed off from society, or physically from being trapped in abusive homes. No one that can do something is actually doing anything, or they sure as hell aren’t communicating it out to their constituents.
Without getting into the politics and data of COVID, community sports are STILL not allowed to organize in Phase 2. I saw Washoe County guidance saying the State of Nevada was to only allow up to 50 people at a baseball complex in Phase 2 – which ours in South Reno is maybe 10 acres or so. That’s some 8,700 square feet of social distancing ability per person. We are talking talking one person in the space a little smaller than the size of our Governor’s Mansion!
For another reference, the State allows our local swimming pools three people to a lane, effectively 48 people or so, in a pool that would fit in the infield of one of our four baseball fields.
Here is a better reference, since this example is so painfully obvious. How many people, are allowed in a closed environment like a Costco which is roughly one third the size of a baseball complex? Politician math only allows 16 people in the store. Eye roll.
Did I Mention Poor Communication?
I can imagine community leagues can get awfully creative with 8,700 square feet per person to meet whatever safety concerns our politicians have. But instead, leagues have to submit safety plans for approval to fit only 50 people into the park. Guess what? Too effing late. Leagues who have been patiently waiting for guidance from the State have received so little guidance that they had to just cancel their seasons.
There are 700 Little Leaguers in South Reno alone and thousands of other kids spread through this region in other leagues and other sports. Try and manage expectations for the families of 700 kids without having any idea of what to plan for. And it is nearly mid-June, we still have no idea. Washoe County has been amazing working with us. Unfortunately, the State has tied their hands with their inability to communicate and prioritize our children.
You want to know the best part? I received an email saying the State is not going to move forward with youth sports until Phase 3! Needless to say, we don’t know what that even means or if that is even accurate, because the communication is piss poor. Really, does “move forward” mean the ridiculous “50 people to 10 acres” plan? Phase 3, really? If so, politely piss off.
It gets better – and I hesitate to mention this – but those private organizations are practicing EVERYWHERE. They have been for weeks and much, much longer for those teams where winning is everything. It is easier for them to organize and hit the fields or their private facilities. Park Rangers actually care about the people so no one in their right mind would try and kick a bunch of kids off a field. I only hesitate mentioning this because I fear the folks in power will simply go after those private organizations with fines or closure causing further harm to our children rather than solving this problem. That is the level of concern they have shown so far, it’s hard to expect much different.
At a Loss
I am honestly so damn sick of these people. And without recourse. I have no idea what I can do as protests seem to fall on deaf ears regardless of political affiliation. The petition I signed will probably get filed away in a desk drawer of some random bureaucrat. Sure, I can write an article on our niche website.
But the people in power do not care. Otherwise they would have had a plan for community sports before it was too late. If they cared, they wouldn’t wait until the brothels opened. They wouldn’t wait until the strip clubs opened. They would prioritize community sports and give our children some outlet to recover from three months of hell.
And I think there is some irony that protests are sweeping our nation that talk about “systemic racism” and “system inequality” yet we continue to watch community sports and our children be neglected by the people in power out of some feigned concern for our children’s health and safety. Who do you think suffers most, mentally and physically, when community sports leagues die? It might not be a race thing, but it sure will be an equality thing. Poorer neighborhoods are affected more when they lose their community sports than richer neighborhoods. They are robbed of an opportunity and they are suffering needlessly when our politicians can do something about it.
So, bring back community sports, which are already struggling to compete under normal circumstances. Stop neglecting our children. Stop putting our community sports into the same class of organizations as brothels and strip clubs. Advocate for our children.
The author is on the board of Washoe Little League, though writing of his own volition, coaches his two children regularly, and has both sons playing for the Scorpions Baseball Academy, which proudly supports community baseball.
If you enjoyed this article, check out A Coach’s Promise To Your Kids and Help Me Coach Your Kids, both based on the author’s experience coaching community baseball. As always, thanks for your support.