LA GRANDE — The Union County Board of Commissioners is going to bat for youth athletics.
The commissioners voted 3-0 Wednesday to send a letter to Gov. Kate Brown asking her to include guidelines for allowing young people to participate in organized athletics in the updated version of her Phase 2 reopening plan. Presently, Brown’s Phase 2 reopening guidelines prohibit any sport in which participants come into bodily contact because this could spread the coronavirus.
The commissioners’ letter states the prohibition of organized sporting activities will hurt the development of young people.
“There is no question that this situation will lead to numerous adverse effects to our children’s physical and mental health, attendance and performance in school, personal and professional growth and too many negative consequences to mention,” according to the letter, which all three commissioners — Matt Scarfo, Donna Beverage and Paul Anderes — signed. “It will also create far reaching ripple effects that will be felt in Oregon for many years. During these difficult times, it is more imperative than ever to ensure our kids are able to be involved in positive and constructive activities found through sports.”
Scarfo, a La Grande business owner who played baseball for Eastern Oregon University, came up with the idea for submitting the letter. He said he wants youths to have a chance to return to normalcy as fast as possible.
“I am really concerned about our children and students. It is not known what the long term effects of this (being isolated and out of school for a long period) are,” Scarfo said.
He also said no sports at the high school will hurt students trying to catch the attention of colleges and universities so they can win an athletic scholarship. Scarfo said when students miss seasons their chances of getting a scholarship definitely diminish.
“I don’t want them to miss out on a scholarship because they missed a year,” Scarfo said.
Beverage said she believes sports play a vital role in the development of young people.
“They (youths participating in athletics) learn values and how to work together,” Beverage said.
Board Chairman Anderes said he agrees and added that physical activity is integral to the well-being of children.
The letter notes there have been reports that Brown’s updated Phase 2 guidelines will make exceptions regarding athletics, opening up athletics to Oregon college and professional teams. This sends a mixed message.
“This acknowledges the fact that these activities can be safely engaged in, but also creates an unacceptable discrimination for our youth,” the letter states.
The county board in the letter urges Brown and her staff to act quickly in developing guidelines that make it possible for young people to participate in sports.
“We need swift and decisive action on this immediately so our kids can begin to engage in their fall sports programs without delays,” the commissioners said.
The board’s action is connected with the efforts of Let Them Play In Oregon, an online campaign to bring back youth athletics, which has been sidelined since mid-March when Brown issued a directive closing all schools and shutting down many businesses. Let Them Play in Oregon was created June 5 and now has 25,981 members, according to its Facebook page, Let Them Play! Oregonians for Athletes.