Addington: Faith the state, VPA will allow sports

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I write to you on behalf of the BBA football team to ask you to commit to a sports season this fall. Throughout this pandemic, we've seen our sports and studies get taken away from us little by little. We have determined that we must act so that our voices can be heard. We hope you take serious consideration as our youth is in your hands, and your decision will affect the lives of student-athletes across the state.

Firstly, we commit to taking all safety measures necessary to have a season. It is no secret things will be different, but we are willing to adjust to ensure that we can play. We can mandate masks on buses, take temperatures every day, and closely monitor contact. We will only be playing teams from Vermont and travel can be minimized by having North and South teams meet in the middle. The players, coaches and medical staff at our schools are more than capable and willing to take the needed steps to have a season.

Secondly, sports participation directly relates to better health and education among students. A recent study conducted by the CDC showed students who play sports are less likely to engage in activities such as smoking and drinking. The sports environment tasks students with responsibility, resulting in better decision-making. The study also found that sports directly relate to lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Beyond physical health benefits, playing a sport also helps in the classroom. A study by the NFSH found that sports team participation independently related to a higher GPA. The state must acknowledge this issue is deeper than sports. It is about shaping our youth into more responsible, successful and hard working students.

Another consideration is the option of higher education. Most colleges recruit during the junior or senior years of the fall sports season. Other states have the option of delaying until the winter because of their warmer weather, but we are not afforded that option. A cancellation would shatter the dreams and opportunities of playing at a higher level. Once again, this goes beyond the sport itself. It gives people an opportunity to attain monetary help for a more affordable education. Pre-COVID, the poverty rate in Vermont was around 11 percent. Many of those making up our student population. An ending of our sports seasons could effectively end a way out of poverty for our students. We are the only state in New England that has postponed sports. All of the local colleges will look to other states for players while we Vermonters are left in the mud. It is extremely important that we do not cut the opportunities that sports offer in a student's life.

I understand that taking this stance will warrant backlash. People will accuse us of being "selfish" or "not taking the virus seriously." I am not a medical professional, but I have done plenty of research that suggests we can have a safe season. So far, COVID has been much safer for students than the average flu. In fact 188 people under 24 have died from COVID, compared to an estimated 643 deaths for those under 18 from the flu in the 2017-18 season. Despite this data, the biggest reason for the shutdown was to protect the older and vulnerable population in our country. However, the WHO stated that asymptomatic spread is "very rare." A preprint research review cited by the WHO estimated at highest a 2.2 percent asymptomatic transmission rate, and suggested that "asymptomatic spread is unlikely to be a major driver of clusters or community transmission of infection." Further, recent evidence shows that kids have a lower viral load, resulting in milder symptoms and less transmission, hence why children are far less likely to be infected.

Another point that will be made against us is "sports are high contact," "there will be no social distancing." As stated earlier, there will need to be changes made to ensure safety. For football, I suggest the Schutt "Splash Shield" facemask that prevents the spread of particles by covering the nose, mouth and eyes of the player. Although it will not block air particles, we have seen positive evidence from the national protests in a study by the NBER showing there was no relationship between the packed protests and a COVID spike. This information suggests that transmission through air particles is rare outdoors. If thousands can gather while chanting and yelling, then players on sidelines should be able to do the same. I hope our medical professionals can look at this evidence as a positive step for fall sports.

As the state makes its decisions on this upcoming season. I ask you all to please properly weigh all options. We students do not make the rules, we do not get to discuss our options, and we do not make the final decision. I wrote this letter as a way for our voice to be heard. It is time that our state makes decisions in confidence, instead of fear. We ask you to be confident in our coaching staff, our nurses, trainers and most importantly our students. We ask you to be confident that we will do whatever it takes to play our season. We ask you to be confident in the work that we have put in and will continue to put in for our sports. I have full faith that Phil Scott along with all others involved will do the right thing by committing to a full sports season in the fall of 2020.

Will Addington is a Junior at Burr and Burton where he plays football and baseball. He is an honor student and participates in the Instrumental Ensemble.



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