Let North Carolina Student Athletes Play
Letters by Coaches and Administrators
September 17, 2020
To Whom It May Concern and Governor Roy Cooper:
This is my 50th year being a high school head football coach. Most of that time, 47 years, has been in North Carolina. Covid-19 has caused tremendous chaos in everyone’s life and in the sports world. Most states, at least 39, have chosen to go ahead and play fall sports. North Carolina has chosen not to start any sports until November and the plan is then to play football in the spring. I strongly believe that we could start football in mid-October and finish by the end of December. Football players, especially the seniors, are hurting in their quest for obtaining college scholarships. These young men have been penalized enough already.
Going ahead with football would then lessen the squeeze with other spring sports and not put athletes in a position of having to choose between sports and missing games. The seasons have already been cut short and games have been lost. Then in the spring, these athletes are going to have to choose between basketball playoff games and football games and also football playoff games and baseball games. I talked to a prominent 1-A football coach in the eastern part of the state and he said he would most likely have to forfeit the first two football games because his skill players would be in the basketball playoffs. How is this the best thing for our student-athletes?
Most of the states near and around us are playing football and other fall sports right now. Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida are some of the states playing at this time. They have experienced some bumps in the road but have had no major problems. There is no reason North Carolina cannot do what these other states are doing with fall sports. Murphy High School and several other schools around us have all lost student-athletes to neighboring high schools just across the line in Georgia. There is no need for this to happen. I totally support starting football and all of our fall sports as early as possible for the overall benefit and well being of our young men and women student-athletes.
David R. Gentry
Murphy High School
Head Football Coach
Gov. Roy Cooper & NCHSAA,
I believe that of all of us who remain healthy, that our high school athletes are the most victimized by current covid regulations. It is hard to see these young men and women missing the sports that they have worked so hard at to compete for their school. I am aware that we have a proposed schedule for late winter and spring to play, but this only a proposal and not a definite.
There are many negatives to this such as lack of facilities for so many more teams practicing for example: Volleyball, boys and girls basketball varsity, jv with one gym. Two to four soccer teams in addition to two or three football teams etc. The worst issue though by far will be the overlap of seasons for so many students who love the multiple sports they have prepared themselves for, for so many years. This will cause internal strife as they may have to give up one for another, which will add a burden of peer pressure as well; as disappointing coaches and friends. Teens have it hard enough without this burden. Our teenage athletes have worked and dreamed of playing at their high schools. I had a dream like this when I was young and if it were not for my senior year of high school football, I don’t know how my life would have turned out. I had a dream which took me beyond my wildest expectations, a lifelong bond with many teammates etc. Without the opportunity, it would have been heartbreaking.
I just ask that our state’s decision makers consult with our neighboring states who are playing now and get the feedback about covid results. If the results are good I pray that the North Carolina officials will revise our schedule and let the high school athletes play. The teams are now practicing up to 5 days per week so why not let them play games. Plus in several sports the student athletes are playing travel ball so why not let them play with their normal teammates for the school they love. I am for the kids and I know this is not easy for those who make the decisions as it is for those who make suggestions. However, all I ask is they visit with their peers in the nation and make a decision based on what is up to date in competing states.
Coach of 45 years including:
Rice, Duke, Lenoir Rhyne, Franklin H.S.
Current School Board Member Macon Co. NC
I am writing this in regards to the #LetThemPlayNC movement. When I was first made aware of the movement, I took a step back and tried to examine my own thoughts regarding the matter. As a family member, I have experienced first hand the seriousness and lethality of the Corona Virus. At the same time, as a mental health professional and mother of a teenager myself, I have also witnessed first hand the negative impact that some of the safety measures taken are having on our young people.
I recognize there are no simple solutions, but I also support the call for action. I believe our children need to return to play. We know that participation in sports has known health benefits, including promoting physical fitness and mental wellness. We also know that sports provide a social construct and interaction which is necessary in a time of uncertainty and a critical component of adolescents and teen development. It is widely recognized that physical activity, performed for the right amount of time and intensity can provide benefits to the immune system. In addition, sports can provide a avenue for athletes to learn concepts like teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and integrity. Removing these benefits from our youth in North Carolina during a time a national crisis, while the majority of other states recognize and promote a return to play with additional safety measures, is a disservice, to say the least. I have great concern about the unintended consequences that are occurring in relationship to this decision.
One unintended consequence that I fear and have experienced first hand is the negative impact it is having on the mental health and wellness of our youth. As a mental health professional who primarily services families and children, I have observed the toll that it is taking. When young people lose safe, structured settings that promote physical activity, their mental health suffers. We are seeing a rise in anxiety, depression, substance use, abuse, and need for psychiatric hospitalization among our youth. Athletics has and will continue to help combat these issues and its current absence in North Carolina is saddening.
Another unintended consequence I fear is the negative impact it has on the physical health and well being of our youth. I recognize some of these decisions have been made to protect their health but I question, “Is there not a better way?” If the majority of other states have sought to find a balance between letting young people return to athletics that we know benefits and builds their immune system while taking additional precautions to protect them from the spread of Covid, can we not do the same? I believe we can and it is in our young people’s best interest that we take action to do so.
Last but not least is the concern regarding the negative impact that limiting athletics is having on adolescent and teen development. The primary developmental focus for teens and adolescents is the formation of personal identity. It is believed that this stage of development is crucial. Developing a strong identity serves as a basis for finding future direction in life. It’s believed that those who find a sense of identity feel secure, independent, and ready to face the future, while those who remain confused may feel lost, insecure, and unsure of their place in the world. By limiting our young people’s ability to attend school or engage in extracurricular activities for almost a year of their development, I have a concern that irreversible damage is occurring. Athletics is an avenue that helps facilitate and promote healthy development. Limiting its access, along with access to attend school or engage in structured extracurricular activities, is a disservice to our youth.
It is time the children of North Carolina are granted that same benefits and access to athletics that the majority of their counterparts in the Nation are currently receiving. To continue to deny them of this, negatively impacts their mental health, physical health, and overall development. I hope and pray we as North Carolinians reconsider our policies and increase our efforts to take action on behalf of those most vulnerable and least heard.
Bethany Stalcup, LCSW
Student Athlete Mental Health
More Than Two-Thirds of High School Athletes Report Anxiety and Depression Since Pandemic
Watch: UW Health Athletic Trainer and Researcher Discusses the Study