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ICYMI: Rubio: We need safe team sports this fall. Let’s help schools protect young athletes.

Jul 27, 2020 | Press Releases

Rubio: We need safe team sports this fall. Let’s help schools protect young athletes.
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) 
July 27, 2020
USA Today
Will schools reopen this fall?
Every parent, teacher and school administrator is asking that question. Across the country, high school athletic directors, public school systems and local health officials are pondering another: if so, can high school athletes safely compete?
My answer to both questions is yes, so long as Americans do their part to bring the coronavirus infection rate under control. 
Public health experts and educators agree our children are suffering at home because of the educational losses, which hurt the most disadvantaged among us the worst.
For many boys and girls, high school athletics offers their best hope at a college education and future success. Even for those who will never compete at the next level, the competition, camaraderie and adversity mold young minds and bodies for the better.
Nothing can replace the feeling of Friday nights under the lights, the bonds forged through grueling workouts or learning to overcome failures on the field. Those lessons prepare the next generation in a way that video games, social media and the isolation made worse by social distancing never could.
The question isn’t whether we need sports this fall — we do. It’s how we can make them safe, and states like Florida must allow local flexibility, which is critical and necessary for a safe restart.
Safeguards and precautions need to be put in place in more than just the field or court. Changes in the weight room will be necessary as well, with players lifting in small groups and modifying spotting positions. Players and personnel should monitor symptoms. Testing and quarantine procedures need to be well established and in place ahead of time.
Beyond that, fans, including parents, may need to prepare themselves for viewing games remotely. That will be an expensive proposition, but thankfully, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced a $200 million fund to do exactly that. 
As Congress debates the next coronavirus relief package, we should consider adaptive funds not only to open schools safely, but also to make sure our nation’s high school athletes have a chance to compete this fall. 
Perhaps the most important asset is flexibility. At this moment, the circumstances look dire. Some people want to use this as a pretense to cancel high school sports, especially sports like football. But these are the same people who wanted to cancel football last fall without engaging in a real conversation about safety.
The truth is that our kids need school and they need sports, and it is our job as parents, community leaders and elected officials to make sure they can do those things safely. Three or four weeks ago, people let down their guard against the coronavirus. It is not too late to turn the tide without restarting an economically crippling lockdown if we take personal responsibility now.
And it’s not too late to help our high school athletes safely compete and do what they love.