A group of private school parents has taken its concerns to social media to advocate for the return of sports in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland.
The leagues have held firm on their joint Aug. 13 announcement that their respective fall athletic seasons will be postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic and further evaluation won’t take place until mid-October.
On Sept. 12, a private Facebook page entitled “Parents for IAAM and MIAA Athletes” was created and had 2,400 members as of Wednesday morning with nearly all the private schools in each league (30 in the IAAM and 29 in the MIAA, with a number co-educational schools overlapping) represented.
“Schools in nearby states have safely returned to play, and even our public schools, largely using remote learning, are allowed to resume practice and scrimmages. We know conference leaders are well-intentioned, but this delay has jeopardized scholarship opportunities and, more important, mental health for many kids,” Dennis Lynch, an MIAA parent, said in a news release Wednesday.
The group said it is requesting the league to take several immediate steps, including transparent reporting of discussions and votes; disclosure of metrics used to make postponement and return-to-play decisions; immediate authorization of full practices and interscholastic scrimmages for schools that opt in to such activities; and review and reconsideration of the fall sports postponement no later than Oct. 1, with equitable opt-out provisions for schools not prepared to resume athletic competition.
After learning of the statement, MIAA executive director Lee Dove reached out to the league’s heads of schools seeking responses to the parents' concerns. He declined to comment further.
The statement comes as the Big Ten Conference, of which the University of Maryland is a member, announced it will indeed play football this fall, with the season set to begin the weekend of Oct. 23. The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to play the season in the fall, citing “significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition.”
Also Wednesday, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young reversed course and announced that the city would once again issue permits for youth sports leagues, allowing some groups to play this fall. The city had decided earlier this summer to suspend youth athletic programs and permits for the fall 2020 season because of the ongoing pandemic.
Meanwhile, Maryland announced 643 new coronavirus cases and six deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, on Wednesday. Maryland had the 12th most deaths per capita and the 22nd most cases per capita among states as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center.
Maryland has reported its seven-day testing positivity rate to be below 4% every day since Aug. 8 and under 5% since June 26. The World Health Organization recommends governments record 14 straight days of positivity rates below 5% before pulling back on COVID-19 restrictions. Maryland has entered Stage Three of its coronavirus recovery plan.
Amid the pandemic, some student-athletes say they just want to play.
At Mount de Sales, twins Greta and Charlotte Lacey are two-sport seniors who play field hockey and lacrosse.
Having already lost their junior lacrosse season this spring — and seeing how disappointed their senior teammates were from the lost season — the hope for both is they can somehow have their final high school season salvaged to some extent.
“[In field hockey], we were really looking forward to a great season with us moving to the A Conference,” Greta said. “Now, it’s pushed back or not happening and because it’s my senior year, it’s just weird not knowing what going to happen. It makes me happy that all of the parents are fighting for the season to come back because I think everyone — including all of my teammates and parents —want to get back to school and a sense of normalcy.”
The twins' mother, Lauren Lacey, hopes her twin daughters have the chance to experience their senior seasons. After graduation, Greta and Charlotte are set to play both sports at Gettysburg College.
“There’s nothing that can take [the] place of the competition and structure that sports gives our kids,” Lauren Lacey said. “Just to see them be back out there and competing, building those skills that being on a team provides. And whether it’s for the immediate purpose if their on their high school team or moving ahead in college to play — it’s just part of their whole experience.”
The group statement also included similar accounts of how the postponement of the fall season has affected student-athletes and their parents.
At St. John’s Catholic Prep in Frederick, senior linebacker Will Curlett has built toward a senior season on the football field that has been replaced with uncertainty.
“This year has made the recruitment process a lot more difficult due to the lack of new film. I have improved greatly, along with my senior peers, but we don’t have a platform to show college scouts,” he said in the release.
His mother, Sue Curlett added in the release: “With my son’s 3.5 GPA, 20 extra pounds of muscle and an extra two inches in height, college coaches are going to be looking at video that’s a year old, from a season when he was 16 years old and doesn’t even look like the same person. Our kids are competing with athletes from other states, where sports are in full swing, for scholarships. These kids deserve to show who they have become in their senior year. They have earned it. They worked hard for it.”
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Baltimore Sun Media reporter Kyle J. Andrews and Baltimore Sun reporter Ben Leonard contributed to this article.