Let Them Play: It is More Than Just a Game

By Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, 23rd Senate District

When I look at the issue of letting kids play sports again, I view it through both of my filters, that of a legislator and of a mother. That is why it is clear to me that parents should be allowed to decide if it is the right time for their children to get back onto the recreational field and Let Them Play.

A year of COVID-19 lockdowns has proven to me what I have already known as a mother of three student athletes: participation in sports provides great benefits and growth opportunities for my children physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally. On the playing field, my children interact with other students from a wide range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, exposing them to diversity and expanding their worldview. Participating in sports also has boosted their self-esteem and confidence and made them healthier, more well-rounded people.

Not many studies have been released that look at the toll that the shutdown of team sports has taken on our children. However, as a mother I don’t really need to see any studies to know how valuable it is to let children participate athletically and how critical it is to the physical and emotional well-being of all children.

A high school coach in California, concerned about what was happening to his student athletes after the fall football season was canceled, gathered information from 105 football programs in the state. What he found is alarming. Since COVID-19 shut down football:

  • 1,087 players have been ruled ineligible;
  • 253 players dropped out of school;
  • 64 have been incarcerated;
  • 85 joined gangs; and
  • 38 became new fathers.

This is just a small sample of what happened to student athletes in one sport. Expand those results to encompass all students participating in any school sport and it paints a very bleak picture.

As a mother and newly elected state senator, I believe we must empower parents to have the ability to assess not only the physical but the behavioral health of their children as they move forward in deciding to participate in recreational sports. We can do this in a way that will not only protect our children and keep them safe from COVID-19 but will also keep those coaching and supporting our student athletes safe.

The California Public Health Department has recently released guidelines that will allow children to get back on the playing field. These guidelines are just a start. We need to do more to ensure all student athletes in every youth sport—indoors and outdoors—can safely play if they decide to do so.

I was an early supporter of the “Let Them Play” call to action and will continue to support allowing children to get back onto the playing field safely and efficiently.