Let them Play!
This is a guest column submitted by reader Jeff Chisam.
On Wednesday, the City of McMinnville decided to cancel youth basketball and soccer for the fall. The decision was made by Civic Center officials, the city administrator, and also the Mayor. The reasoning they gave was being unable to social distance in these sports and the fact that they are “contact” sports.
As I start in on my rant over this decision, I want it to be clear that I know a few of these individuals. They are good people, some are good friends. Putting that aside, I would like to voice my opinion on how ridiculous of a decision I think this is.
As our country starts to open up to somewhat of a normal life, we have seen basketball and soccer given the green light at every level: professional, college, high school, middle school and elementary. NFL and college teams are currently in full-contact training camps preparing for their upcoming seasons which start in a couple weeks. (Editor’s note: local elementary basketball is tentatively scheduled to start the last week of September).
What makes the city of McMinnville any different than these? Is it a no-care attitude towards youth sports? Do we have so much money that we don’t need the revenue to pay for the new rec center (which I am a huge fan of)?
I watch as youth baseball and softball, adult softball and basketball tournaments are held in counties all around us while our beautiful facilities sit vacant and pull in $0 revenue. Other areas are raking it in. I have reached out to surrounding counties to see if their leagues will be playing and I have received nothing but positive feedback that they are all going to play. One was even kind enough to immediately send me the forms to sign up.
We have participated in the city baseball league this summer and I will tell you that there is no social distancing at all there. Those that feel the need to wear a mask in the stands do so. You still have collisions. If you have never seen 10 T-ballers dog-pile a ball in the outfield then you have truly missed out. Balls, bats, helmets and catching gear are all shared. We are not allowed to use the dugouts, but rather line the players up along the fence (brilliant right?). I am glad that we are getting to play and there have been no issues with baseball so why would these fall sports have an issue?
If you go outside of McMinnville in youth sports you will notice we struggle to compete with other counties, even those of smaller size than us. Why is this?
A lot of it is because we treat youth sports like a burden and do not start developing these kids at a young age. Other counties treat their youth as a priority and want them to play. We find it easier to throw in the towel and say, “maybe next year.”
I have seen firsthand how a lost year at a young age can put a player so far behind that they may never catch up. The city leagues give the opportunity for kids that are not yet able to play school/travel ball to develop to where they are ready when the time comes. Even those that do not aspire to play at a higher level still are able to make memories and stay in shape, which is also a huge benefit to the immune system that no one wants to discuss (but we will save the medical stuff for another day).
I have also heard the argument from many parents that their son/daughter relies on the referee or score-keeper job throughout the fall as a means of income. How many teenage youth are now unemployed? Do those at the city that their sole job or partial job is to run the city leagues still get paid while these teenagers do without?
This to me is another step backwards in our progression to return to normal. Everyone that would sign up to play and/or work knows what is involved. If you need to limit the crowd, then do so. High school football doesn’t seem to have an issue doing that and Neyland Stadium will have 25,000 people in attendance to watch a football game in a few weeks.
I am born-and-raised Warren Countian. I left for four years to attend college at MTSU and realized that McMinnville is home. I bleed Warren County sports. I want to see our teams be successful and I will do what I can for years to come.
I coach travel softball, AAU, city league softball and baseball and love every minute. I do it for the love of the game and for the kids that love the game also. I want to see us start making Warren County sports a priority and give the kids every opportunity they can get.
Once again, this is not a personal attack on anyone but rather a plea to use common sense in this decision. LET THE KIDS PLAY!