A #letthemplay makeshift sign adorned a fence around Poulin Field at Winslow High School recently. There won’t be any football games at Winslow High — or anywhere else this fall — after the Maine Principals’ Association postponed the season. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

OK then. That’s that. Deep breath.

We finally know the plan for high school sports this fall in Maine. For volleyball and football, it’s not the resolution many craved. Maybe a spring season, but nothing concrete. It amounts to nothing more than punting a decision down the road a few months. Nothing this fall but practices and wishes.

In a state that has done as good a job as any from the start of this pandemic, sports was and is a major blind spot.

Adults in leadership roles with state agencies and local school districts did student-athletes an abject disservice throughout this entire process. State officials told the Maine Principals’ Association to come up with a plan, which it did a couple weeks ago when it formulated guidelines to safely begin all fall sports. That triggered a near instant reaction from the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services, which checked back in and saw to it this process was dragged out more, sending athletes and coaches on an unnecessary roller coaster ride.

If those officials had been up front on their objections to playing football and volleyball, we could have avoided putting every student-athlete hoping to play a fall sport through a couple weeks of mental agony. It should have been made more transparently. It’s a tough decision, and there’s no doubt it was taken seriously.  At the same time, it’s a decision few responsible for making it wanted to own.

Everything about trying to open schools this fall is stressful. This drawn-out process only added to that. The saga dragged on like it did because people in charge couldn’t decide who to blame when they heard complaints.

Hey, I didn’t cancel your season. It was them.

Too many leaders were more concerned with pinning the bad news on somebody else. We had this dog-and-pony show because nobody wanted to be the one to stand up and say “I’m sorry, but we can’t play football and volleyball right now, and this why.”

The scoreboard above Alumni Field at Cony High School in Augusta doesn’t have much to display these days — and it won’t for the fall sports season. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

They ran from that responsibility like it was a hornet’s nest that had fallen in their path. This was a decision that could have been made at the local level across the state, but too many leaders at the local level didn’t want to make it.

A big problem throughout this entire process was an inability to pursue a regional solution. With the outbreaks currently in York County, particularly in Sanford, delaying the start of the high school sports season makes sense. But why force the same standard on parts of the state where there is not community transmission? One size fits all didn’t fit when businesses were slowly reopening. It shouldn’t fit now.

Maine high school students — if you learn anything from this experience — please learn this. The world is not fair, and never was. The universe cares not one iota for you or your feelings. Take every promise and sincere word with a grain of salt. Someday, you’ll be in positions of power. Remember how you were treated during this process, and do your best not to repeat these mistakes.

Demand accountability from your leaders. Stay on them to formulate a plan for playing volleyball and football in the spring. A lot of questions will need to be answered, and more hesitation and hand-wringing is unacceptable. What do the state’s COVID-19 numbers have to look like for our sports to proceed? When there’s still snow on the ground, where will we play? Where will we practice? Can we limit the number of people in a gym to practice? Is there anything our sports can do to improve chances for play? Do everything the right way. Adhere to the guidelines. Earn their trust, because you certainly don’t have it right now.

The winter sports season is fast approaching. Maybe it’s not.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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