Over 100 people, including student-athletes, their families, coaches, teachers, and school administrators gathered last Friday afternoon at Lavanche Hursch Park in Arbuckle to participate in a ‘Let Them Play Rally,’ designed to send a message to government officials, the California Interscholastic Federation and others about the significance of high school sports.
Putting aside county rivalries, representatives from four of the five county high schools delivered heart-felt appeals and clearly articulated reasons for allowing them to return to the field of play, joining more than 135 other schools across the state for a coordinated expression of solidarity.
Pierce’s Katie Williams took the lead in organizing the event, explaining that she was motivated by what she saw on the Let Them Play Facebook page.
“I saw the movement on Facebook and thought what better county than Colusa to show support for high school sports, so I spoke with Mr. Barber and our principal and took the bull by the horns,” said the senior who has been unable to compete in her final season of volleyball for the Bears.
Williams set the tone for the proceeding by acknowledging the unity among the county’s athletes and stressing that they were assembled to fight for high school athletics and not to engage in commentary on COVID protocol.
Pierce principal Dr. David Vujovich followed Williams, addressing the toll the lack of activity and camaraderie has taken on students, while also stressing that a safe competitive environment was possible given that Pierce had been back in school five days week since early November.
“I’m very proud of these kids. This movement keeps growing, and our promise is that we can work together safely,” said Vujovich, who then proceeded to lead the crowd in a chant of “Let Us Play”.
Also stepping to the podium and speaking on behalf of their respective schools was Colusa’s Mason Saso, and Reese Roper, Laynee Haywood and Morgan Dennis from Maxwell, Pierce’s Ashlyn Wooldridge, who read a statement from Williams’s Nayeli Contreras, and three other Bear athletes, including Justin Mathews, Eduardo Ambriz and Betsy Myers.
In their comments, the student-athletes not only highlighted the mental and physical benefits of playing sports, but additionally addressed missing out on what has been one of the best parts of high school as well as the potential loss of scholarships.
Confirming what the county athletes said in their statements about mental health is a study conducted by UW Health and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, which found that “approximately 68 percent of 3,243 student-athletes surveyed reported feelings of anxiety and depression at levels that would typically require medical intervention, a 37 percent increase from past research studies.”
Representing the many coaches in attendance was Pierce’s Kim Travis, who echoed the disappointment of not having a season, but then spoke of the role coaches could continue to have in their player’s lives to help combat the adverse effects of being unable to engage in school-related athletic activities.
What impact the rallies will have remains to be seen, because prior to the Pioneer Review print deadline, the CIF website had last been updated on January 12, and indicated that cross country, skiing/snowboarding, swimming & diving, tennis and track & field were the only permissible sports for competition in counties remaining in the purple tier, the level where Colusa County currently finds itself.
Thus while all those involved wait in hopes of a resumption of education-based athletics, Colusa County is doing its part to “Let Them Play.” ♣