‘These kids lost everything’: Northampton student-athletes plan protest as town’s participation in Fall Sports II season remains uncertain

As Fall Sports II season Launched Monday for high schools in Massachusetts, several Northampton student-athletes plan to demonstrate in the town’s downtown area against uncertainties over the community’s participation in the season.

The demonstration will take place on Monday at 2 p.m. in front of the town hall. About 10 student-athletes are expected to join the protest, all aimed at shedding light on the issue and getting answers on whether there will be a sports season in the coming weeks for high school students in the city, according to Braeden. Tudryn, a senior at Northampton High School and one of the protest organizers.

“Basically all the other communities outside of Northampton are going to do the season as planned,” he told MassLive. “It’s frustrating.”

The protest comes after the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association approved changes and recommendations late last month for several sports to compete during the Fall Sports II season, which has been delayed due to fluctuations in coronavirus cases and restrictions surrounding the pandemic.

“We made adjustments in the fall and had a successful first season. We’ve made additional changes for the winter, and our student athletes have been actively engaged since December, ”MIAA President Jeffrey Granatino said in a statement. declaration. “We now hope that with the guidance of the Governor’s Office and the EEA, as well as the work of our various committees, we can have a safe and successful Fall Season II.”

Fall Season II is now slated to run from February 22 to April 25, but it is unclear whether Northampton will participate in football and other sports, such as unified basketball and cheerleading. The MIAA has left the decision of whether or not to participate in the season to local school districts and / or their local boards of health.

Last Thursday, the Northampton Board of Health held its monthly meeting. However, the question of whether the city will participate in the Fall II sports season was not an item on the agenda and was only discussed by student-athletes and parents during the period of public comments.

Merridith O’Leary, the city’s director of public health, has the executive authority to make all public health decisions during a declared emergency, including whether or not to allow Fall Season II to begin . The Health Council could also address the issue at its next meeting at the end of March. The future of the season at Northampton remains unclear, however.

Several residents argued at the board meeting on Thursday that it was in the best interests of Northampton high school students to participate in the season for their mental health. Some members of the audience also pointed out that student-athletes in their final year want to be able to play sports in their final months of high school.

For Tudryn, 17, a linebacker and running back for the Northampton High football team, not knowing whether there will be a season from February to April has been maddening.

The high school student claimed he was not alone. He said fellow footballers and student-athletes from other school sports teams, such as boys and girls basketball, could also take part in Monday’s protest.

The student-athlete argued that sports in the Pioneer Valley were able to operate safely. From mid-January to last Thursday, Tudryn noted, he played indoor basketball for Hopkins Academy in Hadley. The season went well, without fear of COVID-19, according to him.

“We were fine, eight games, and everyone was safe, wearing masks, making sure to distance themselves socially when they could,” he said.

Parents and students have sent emails to the Board of Health, asking that Northampton be allowed to participate in Fall Sports Season II alongside other towns and villages in Massachusetts, according to Tudryn.

“Many Northampton citizens are frustrated that although it can be done safely, the Health Council has not made a decision,” he said.

Several members of the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School football team and their parents agree. Northampton High and Smith Vocational both fall in the Pioneer Valley Interschool Sports Conference, which will be able to start organizing practices on March 1.

Rachel Janik-Cappello, a parent of one of the Smith Vocational students who is asking to allow the football season to continue, told the board of health meeting on Thursday that she was a paramedic firefighter and had treated almost exclusively coronavirus-related illnesses since last year.

“I would like to say unequivocally that I have not had a child with COVID, not a teenager with COVID or COVID-like symptoms,” she said. “Even though this is anecdotal evidence, I feel like it serves at the very least as a benchmark as to whether this is a real threat to health or a threat to public safety or the well-being of our high school student-athletes. These children have lost everything in the past year. I mean, who didn’t.

With gyms also closed, teens had to stay disciplined about their home workout routines, “and they did,” she added. If the sporting season begins, they will also be required to strictly adhere to public health regulations, which include wearing a face mask and shield with a helmet if playing football.

The elders of Smith Vocational also occupy a unique position, argued Janik-Cappello. Some students will enter the job market directly after graduation, as the school provides technical and agricultural education.

“These boys and girls just want to play football,” Janik-Cappello said. “I just want to say that we should really allow these kids to be able to play, especially [because] the graduation party is gone, the graduation is over. This is the last time they are children. They are traders. These children enter the labor market directly after that.

Jacob Furtaw, an athlete on the Smith Vocational football team, spoke at the Health Council Thursday meeting to say his team would like to have a Fall Season II, noting that high school sports are about “building friendships, finding strength and leadership”.

“We should have a season because it gives us the opportunity to change for the year not just as one person, but as a whole team,” said the student-athlete. “This is the last year for some of the students on our team because they’re going to another school or they’re just going to move on, and they would really like to have a season.”

Another member of the Smith Vocational football team and a senior at the school echoed Furtaw’s comments later in the meeting.

“It’s about us. It’s our football season, and I’ve been locked up at home, and it’s really weighing on us, ”said the student, who identified himself by the first name Liam. “I really hope you make the right decision with us.”

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