Protestors at Monday’s Let Them Play Rally (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
“Let Them Play” could be called Stage One of an effort to bring back Fall Sports
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
I made the trip to Richmond on Monday to address a group of parents and student-athletes who had come from many areas of the state to show their support for the return of fall sports and activities.
The group listened to a series of speakers before hitting the streets of Richmond to march. Stone Bridge High School parent Holly Wiles organized the event on short notice and the media (mostly from Richmond) came out to cover the event.
“Other states have reinstated fall sports. As many as 45 states have high school sports programs competing,” said Wiles as she addressed the crowd of 40 or 50 supporters.
By our count, no less than 35 states have approved the return of fall football. Many have already started playing.
“Fall sports like Cross Country and Golf can’t even play. Those sports are perfect for social distancing, yet the VHSL won’t allow them to play either. The absence of fall sports is impacting the health and well-being of our young people,” Wiles stated.
Several other speakers addressed the crowd, including VA-03 Congressional candidate John Collick, who pledged his support for the effort and encouraged the athletes, parents and coaches on hand to reach out to Governor Northam and their state representatives.
The VHSL anticipated the publicity that the rally would generate and released the following statement, not attributed to any staff member of the VHSL.
“We fully understand and support the passion of high school sports from our school communities, parents, and students. From day one, we have been committed to getting our students participating in activities safely and responsibly. There has been a tremendous amount of input and cooperation from principals, superintendents, activity directors, coaches, and members of various communities.
“The VHSL and its member schools have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a plan for our students to participate in VHSL sponsored athletics and activities. Our Executive Committee will meet this Thursday to approve and adopt our “Championships + 1” schedule for the FY 2021 Athletic and Academic Activities season. This schedule provides every VHSL sponsored activity a season during the FY2021 year.
“VHSL staff and Executive Committee will continue to work in cooperation the VHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) to develop a list of recommended guidelines for school divisions as they prepare for the safe reopening of high school sports and activities.”
The “Let Them Play” rally is determined to force a return to activities as soon as possible. Buoyed by Michigan and Delaware’s recent announcements that their public schools would bring back fall sports urgently, Holly Wiles and her supporters have hope that Virginia will do the same.
Monday may have been the first step toward a return to fall sports, but it’s also clear that more work is yet to be done and more voices need to speak up. Wiles mentioned that a second event may soon be in the works and it could be held in Richmond or in Loudoun County.
– Andy Hilton