Return of high school sports welcome news during ‘dark times’

Political and civil unrest grip much of the nation. A pandemic rages on. Wildfires forge a path of destruction throughout much of California, while hurricanes batter the shores of our country. Oh, and to cap it all off, a meteor is on a trajectory with our planet (although the chances of it actually striking anything or anyone is less than one percent).
So it was a welcome sight to see the city’s School Committee vote unanimously Wednesday night to bring back high school sports this fall. Pro sports may press the pause button for political protests, but many of our nation’s youth will be back on their respective playing surfaces as early as Sept. 18.
This decision is a stark contrast from the one that the Pittsfield School Committee just made, cancelling the fall season for the Pittsfield and Taconic high school sports teams. That decision was also unanimous.
It is a blessing to see that sports will return at Westfield and Westfield Technical Academy high schools. Not only does it keep me employed, but it also gives us something positive to talk about in these dark times.
The Westfield School Committee gave the green light to golf, cross country, and gymnastics, but also reassured Westfield/Westfield Technical Academy athletic coordinator Ryan Dunphy that other sports such as field hockey, soccer, and girls volleyball, if still deemed safe by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors, will be played this fall.
It is quite possible that some of these sports may not look the same once modifications are made to each one by their respective sport committees, incorporating masks and instituting social distancing measures in activities that typically welcome close contact.
And we also need to keep our fingers crossed in hopes that other Western Massachusetts cities and towns do not follow the path taken by Pittsfield, otherwise the Bombers and Tigers could be left competing against one another.
Still, the fact that these student-athletes will be able to begin practicing with their fellow classmates is welcome news as they have been told to do quite the opposite for some time now as the coronavirus sweeps across our country faster than the western wildfires.
In addition to following some strict guidelines on the field of play, spectators will be required to wear masks. If the Babe Ruth Baseball League season is any indication, this will not be an easy thing to police.
Large groups of teenagers have often congregated in the corner of Bullens Field’s seating section this past summer without social distancing, and more often than not, not wearing masks, defying requests by Babe Ruth officials to adhere to the rules put in place.
With that being said though, the positives still far outweigh the negatives.
Playing sports is good for the body and mind, teaches teamwork, and keeps kids off the streets, where any number of things can go wrong.
Let’s do our part to be supportive of our student-athletes; be mindful of the rules, regulations and guidelines (whether or not you agree with them or not); and be respectful of one another.
Lastly, let’s just play ball!

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