EDITORIAL: Make an exception and allow parents at high school sports events

  • There is going to be a fall high school sports season.
  • COVID-19 mitigation limits, however, will make it hard for parents to attend games.
  • The state should make an exception for parents to attend the games.
York High fans celebrate during a basketball game in 2019. Parents may have difficulty attending the games of their children this fall.

They’ve decided to let our kids play.

If that's settled, then state officials need to let our parents watch our kids play.

If case you haven’t heard, there’s going to be a high school fall sports season in Pennsylvania, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and health officials' advice against it.

Gov. Tom Wolf isn’t happy about it. In fact, he’s strongly recommended against having any youth sports before Jan. 1, 2021. Nevertheless, Wolf has opted against ordering the stoppage of youth fall sports.

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Instead, he left the decision to play, or not play, up to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and the individual school districts. After a strong “Let Our Kids Play in Pa.” campaign, the PIAA and each of the 23 schools in the York-Adams League have elected to at least try a fall sports season.

Parental problem: There’s just one problem. It’s going to be extremely hard, if not impossible, for parents to watch their kids compete.

Originally, Wolf ordered that high school sports events be held without any spectators, even parents. Last week, the governor relented on that edict a bit and said that fans can be allowed at high school events — as long as his current mitigation limits are not exceeded. That means no more than 25 folks for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events.

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The only major fall sport to be held indoors is girls’ volleyball. Once you get the players, the coaches and the officials into a gym, the 25-person limit is likely to be hit, meaning no parents allowed.

The 250-person outdoor limit may allow for limited attendance by parents for certain events, but not for others.

If two large schools are playing football, just the players, coaches and officials could easily top 150 people. There’s no way the parents of each player could attend the game.

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Other events, with fewer players, may have more space for parents, but trying to figure out how many parents can attend an event on a game-by-game basis would be a nightmare scenario for school officials. It would also lead to lots of angry parents.

Make an exception: So, it’s time for Gov. Wolf to make a pragmatic exception for fall high school sports. Give each varsity athlete two tickets to each varsity game. That way, the parents can watch their kids play.

Yes, that means the 25-person-indoor and 250-person-outdoor limits would be exceeded at times.

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That rule, however, is routinely exceeded every weekend at dirt tracks all across Pennsylvania and the Wolf administration has done almost nothing to enforce its restrictions.

Why should high school sports be any different?

Adhere to other rules: We’re not saying that we should allow packed stands with unmasked folks sitting elbow to elbow. We’re just saying the parents, especially the parents of senior athletes, deserve the right to watch their kids play. They especially need to be there in case one of their children would get hurt.

Parents, if they are allowed to attend games, should abide by all social-distancing and mask requirements. If they aren’t willing to adhere to the rules, they lose their right to attend.

Also, parents should be the only exceptions to the state’s current mitigation limits. Everyone else (grandparents, siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, students, bands, cheerleaders, nonvarsity players, etc.) should be kept out.

It’s not a perfect solution, but if everyone obeys the state health guidance, the parents should be able to watch the games in relative safety.