by Jim Baines & Tyler Rowe

This school year, we really let our high school kids down.

This is the time of year that we in Maine would be gathering in Bangor, Augusta, and Portland for the annual Maine Principals’ Association high school basketball tournaments. As we all know, due to the pandemic, we cannot gather en masse to observe what unites so many of us from all corners of the state.

Due to the contagious nature of COVID-19, and the liability that could go with any potential transmissions, it’s certainly understandable why thousands of people cannot be in an enclosed building at once. However, since the most dangerous part of COVID-19 is such a mass gathering, and not the game of basketball itself, there’s no good reason that Maine could not have done the same as the majority of other states and held state/regional basketball tournaments behind closed and locked doors.

Due to the directives of Governor Mills’ administration, high school teams can only play an opponent from an adjacent county, with an arbitrary limit to the number of people in the building. In other words, if the opponent isn’t from “the county next door,” the teams can’t get together to play.

This directive is flawed from the start. Maine has sixteen very disparate counties, and unilateral, statewide decisions do not represent Maine as a whole. Every town, every community, and every corner is different. We should be involving our local administrators, parents, and support staff to find the best way to ensure our kids realize a sense of normalcy, to maximize their physical and mental health.

High school athletes dedicate themselves to pursuing a goal, and they could do so under very safe conditions in a closed gym. We should be trusting our local leaders to make sure these kids benefit from this valuable experience, just as their siblings and friends before them enjoyably did. These kids deserve to be a part of this rich tradition, too.

So many other states are using common sense to make sure that kids are playing safely. We can do the same, rather than letting fear rule their lives.

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