Betting my life on return to sports

I love living life to its fullest.

Henry Miller

However, I have Type 2 Diabetes. I fight congestive heart failure. I’m overweight, and I’m 54 years old. My cardiologist looks at me with almost sympathetic eyes and says, “You’re still very young.”

I don’t have much of a chance in a battle with COVID-19. I have too many “underlying conditions.”

But, I also have a 16-year-old daughter who plays high school sports. Therein lies my dilemma. That is where my struggle is. I fear contracting the virus; at times, I fear for my life. I’ve followed the guidelines to lower the risk but I can’t risk letting up. Nobody can.

I fear more for my daughter to miss out on life, on its wonderful experiences and its sometimes harsh lessons.

But I have carefully and extensively thought about the following words.

Let … them … play.

Coaches, parents and athletes have voiced their frustration across the Valley regarding the possibility of another delay in athletics and other extracurricular activities due to COVID-19. In Mission, parents and athletes organized a rally to show their support to let athletics begin as currently scheduled.

Sure, health comes first, without question. Coaches and athletic directors/coordinators have worked daily over the summer to be prepared for an upcoming season. They want, and deserve, a chance to do what they’ve been hired, and recently trained, to do.

Another component is that parents should not rely on the schools to be babysitters. It is our job to make sure our kids are compliant with the rules and recommendations set before us to try and put an end to this virus and begin returning back to normal as much as possible.

Several of the athletes we have talked to in recent weeks just smile or nod their head when asked if they thought they would play football this year, their response perhaps implying, “Yes, even if it’s not high school football.”

There are already 7-on-7 leagues competing in the Rio Grande Valley. Some high school coaches have talked about so-called “black market” leagues being created.

I would much rather put my daughter under the guidance of her high school coaches who have tried to prepare for this for months than someone who, even with the best of intentions, is trying to recreate the poor man’s version of high school football or any other sport. Coaches are tagged by wins and losses — he or she is great because they won this many titles or this many games. But they do more than that. They try to create an environment and teach winning and losing off the field.

I wrote a story about an athlete whose mom died by suicide. The athlete didn’t go back to classmates. That person was lifted up by teammates and coaches. That person made it through a season of despair because of the hope that athletics brings.

Even a team that hasn’t won a game in years still shows up to play, still desires to compete, still has hope. Without a sport, there is no hope for so many of our children.

Athletes have also told us that sports are what motivate them to go to school everyday and to keep their grades up. Whether you say it shouldn’t be like that is irrelevant. It’s the truth.

The numbers of those infected and dying are dropping. Fewer beds are being used for COVID-19 patients. Is it still a threat? Yes, I don’t question that. Could an athlete possibly be infected and spread it throughout his or her family? Yes.

But a prescription without a diagnosis is malpractice. We must make sure the diagnosis is accurate before we come up with a cure. If that means no sports after considering everything that everyone is doing, so be it. But I think we can return.

If parents take responsibility for their children, and if their children want to play, then keep them home and teach them that sacrifices are made to do what we love to do, to do that which makes us become better individuals. When will the numbers be right for you?

Maybe there are sports without fans. Maybe there are sports without all the athletes because parents decide it’s too risky for them.

I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that the full experience that athletics and other competitions do is offer a different type of education for those who participate. I fear my daughter and so many others will miss out.

I believe we can have sports and still mitigate the spread of a disease that has many of us in fear. But we need to have that fear guide us, to challenge us. Not to control us.

If there’s any chance at all, let’s give our coaches and our athletic directors an opportunity to let them play. I believe it can happen.

In some ways, you could say, I’m betting my life it can.