Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent, wrote a perfect letter to school parents earlier this month explaining the school board’s decision to give sports the green light during these very challenging times. Now, I’m going to write a letter to the student-athletes.
Dear student athletes:
A long time ago when Bruce Springsteen was singing Born in the USA, MTV was being created, the Berlin Wall was being demolished and the Democrats hated the Republican president (I guess times don’t change that much), I played high school sports.
Yes, the times have changed. Especially in 2020.
But I understand what high school sports are all about. My senior year we won the New York High School Soccer State Championship – a small team from upstate knocking off that arrogant club from Long Island in the state finals. So I know what it’s like to take that ride with a group of people and accomplish the ultimate goal.
But the ultimate goal for 2020-21 isn’t winning a state championship. It’s not winning a league title or breaking school records. It’s about respecting what has been given to you and honoring that decision by being the mature, smart and well-guided young men and women that helped get you back on the field.
I know it’s not track season, but Dr. Swift and school officials have given you a baton to run with. They have given you an incredible opportunity to compete when they could have (some say should have) shut everything down. They could have used the safe lane as the only solution to get around the next corner in this difficult race.
Nothing is easy these days, but the easiest of the two choices would have been to close the gym doors, turn out the lights, and wait for a clean bill of health before one kick, one spike, one putt or one touchdown was allowed to occur.
But here you are. On the track with the baton. And how you run with it will help end up deciding whether the decision was the right one. School officials are putting a lot of faith in you and it’s up to you to thank them the best way you can – by following every guideline and going that extra mile to be safe.
This season isn’t about you. It’s about the TEAM – now more than ever. A good team is like a family, and every member needs to take care of their brothers and sisters this fall season. It will be about making good choices in the best interest of your two families – the one on the field and the one at home.
When you aren’t practicing, training or studying, stay home. Don’t go to the mall or out for ice cream or meet some friends to hang out. Remember your priorities and your responsibility to your teammates. Do whatever you can to maximize your ability to stay healthy and out of harm’s way – and that starts by staying home.
It’s also about following every safety measure put in front of you. And not just wearing a mask and washing your hands – although that’s a great place to start. These are not suggestions or recommendations. They are hard and fast and serious rules designed to keep you and your teammates healthy and on the field.
Playing sports truly is a gift that not everyone gets to enjoy. Your school officials are allowing you to enjoy this gift because they believe in you. They trust you to do the right thing. And the best way to thank them is by doing exactly that.
Not everything is under your control. You can only control what you can control. Grab the baton and run with it – and show your two families that you will do everything in your control to justify what a gift you have been given.