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Washington student-athletes waiting on ‘direct answers’ as to why sports can’t resume

Moscow High School students practice a cheerleading routine on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Moscow, Idaho. Idaho schools are moving forward with plans to hold fall sports, but with precautions in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)

High school athletes across the state are demanding some action to let them return to fall sports in a safe and reasonable way. These student athletes formed a group called SAW — Student Athletes of Washington — and have presented proposals to the both governor’s office and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

One of the students athletes is Gabriel Nelson, who plays football at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline.

“As of right now, based on their plans that were issued in, I think it was June or July when we had that spike, fall sports are supposed to start in February,” Nelson told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “But that is what we’re trying to change, and change the recommendation of that.”

Thousands petition Gov. Inslee to allow fall sports for WA student athletes

There are a number of reasons why the athletes say it’s important to play the fall sports season near its normal time rather than wait to play in February, including the fact that there are more than 35 other states playing right now in the United States that have found a way to do so safely.

“And National Signing Day is actually before we’d start,” Nelson added. “I know people are going to say only a small amount of people play college sports, but those opportunities, they’re super important.”

Nelson also pointed out that the mental health of students right now is suffering, both for the kids who can’t play the sports they love, as well as the kids who just aren’t connected to their school.

“I’m ASB president over at Shorecrest, and I’m just seeing the lack of attentiveness,” Nelson said. “People don’t really feel like connected to the school at all, because there’s no activities, you’re not physically in your school.”

He used the Seahawks as an example. Fans have been able to connect by watching the game, even when they’re not physically together.

“That’s kind of the same thing that I was thinking,” Nelson said. “People will connect … just by watching and having something to talk about.”

“And also talking about the juvenile crime rates are the highest between 3:30 and 5:30, which … would be occupied by sports but isn’t. So that will definitely increase,” he added. “There’s so many reasons — and not to mention the 38 other states that are playing right now, who have plans outlined that we have cited.”

SAW has met with the governor’s office twice, Nelson explained. The first meeting was mostly the students talking, sharing their findings, the data they’ve collected from other states, and the reasons why a return to fall sports should be considered.

The second meeting, he says, was scheduled by the local officials and was a lot more of them talking.

“We had to hear what they had to say because in the first meeting it was a lot of them listening to us,” Nelson acknowledged. “So in this meeting, it felt like they hadn’t considered everything we’re saying, like mental health wasn’t brought up until we brought it up.”

A few of the department of health officials that had come to the meeting were bouncing in and out of the as well, Nelson added, as they had other things scheduled.

“It felt like we were taken seriously, but it didn’t feel like we were a super high priority,” he said. “And it didn’t feel like they’d taken what we said into account.”

The most conclusive answer SAW was given, Nelson says, is that the officials will think about changing their recommendation.

“They said they’ll review the recommendation, which gives me some hope,” he said. “But I really hope they do.”

He says the governor’s office has been helpful, has understood their points, and has been respectful in listening to the students and allowing them time to talk.

“But they haven’t necessarily been helpful in giving us direct answers of why the recommendation hasn’t been changed,” he added.

Washington still has hurdles to clear before student-athletes return to play

The next step for SAW, Nelson says, is to keep meeting as a committee and hopefully keep pushing and talking to officials to determine who makes the call to get fall sports started as soon as possible.

“We’re just hoping to be able to meet with the people who are making these decisions, and the people who are making these recommendations,” Nelson said, “and be able to present our findings from the many other states that are playing.”

Follow Student Athletes of Washington on Twitter for updates and to find more details about the students’ proposals for a return to play.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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