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Applaud plans, but compete with caution

Risk of injury always is inherent when participating as a student athlete. Parents and students have been willing to accept that possibility for as long as high school sports have existed.

This year, student athletes, parents and coaches have the choice also to accept health risks that could come with the COVID-19 pandemic as they take to football fields, cross country trails, golf courses and volleyball courts after they all received the green light this week.

From the reaction we’ve seen from athletes, band members, cheerleaders, drill team members and others — including their families — most are ready to accept the risk as they willingly head into their seasons. There will be startling changes from the past norm: limited attendance at events, for instance. Also, bands performing only at home football games.

Still, we applaud the governor for making the decision this week to give these kids participating in both contact and noncontact sports the opportunity to compete this fall — that is, provided their school districts agree.

The lessons learned from participation in high school team sports teach many important values that go well beyond the skills required for the game. They teach commitment, integrity, teamwork and shared sacrifice. These lessons should not easily be disregarded.

And, this virus can be controlled and neutralized with proper safety — often, sheer common sense — measures. Yes, such as masks and social distancing.

Young athletes and their families understand and accept the risks associated with participation in sports. Further, if students are infected with COVID-19, they are less likely to suffer severe consequences.

Now, it is up to students, coaches and parents to strictly follow health guidelines carefully and cautiously so the season can be completed with no major COVID-related setbacks. Gov. DeWine said his decision empowers young people, parents and schools to make decisions that are correct for them. If that means moving forward with their competitions, then it must also mean following the safety guidelines not just during this year’s more limited number of interscholastic competitions, but also during daily practices.

No one wants young athletes to be denied their chance — maybe their last or only one — to compete in a sport they enjoy. Indeed, all of us want what is best for our children — athletes and otherwise. And no one wants to see these kids or their loved ones get sick.

“I hope that the desire to have a season will inspire our young people, our student-athletes, 24/7 to be as careful as they can,” DeWine said, in making his announcement this week. “I hope that it will inspire them to make the right decisions to give them the opportunity to have the best chance they can to play their sport.”

Indeed, Friday night football games will not be typical. Nor will all the other local sports and activities.

But as long as student athletes, fans and all others involved follow the rules to help them stay healthy, we are hopeful they will move forward safely.

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