Coronavirus

Athletics Seems To Have Had Heavy Influence Over Texas Return To School Guidelines

In Texas we know that the only thing more important that God and family is high school sports—especially football. While many are concerned with returning to on campus activities it seems that the hierarchy of the TEA and the UIL were both influenced by parents and coaches to resume a “normal” athletics schedule even amid the ongoing pandemic.

“Ahead of our UIL meetings I took at least 50 calls from parents,” said one San Antonio area Athletic Director who asked to remain anonymous. “They threatened to have their kids play in outside leagues like the Texas Select Youth Football League (TSYFL).”

So how would that impact the school the return to school plan and why does that matter? Because under Governor Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas youth sporting leagues would be allowed to carry on with very limited restrictions. Parents who are convinced that their child can “play at the next level” would have defected at a higher number resulting in financial hits for public school districts and athletic programs.

Select leagues are becoming increasingly popular among wealthy elites and parents with high aspirations for stardom.

“We have done a pretty good job limiting these so-called ‘Select’ style leagues in terms of football in this state,” said one UIL official. “Those leagues are very economically discriminatory and not highly organized around a families ability to pay-to-play youth sports.”

Over the summer hundreds of these select leagues carried on their daily activities while school centered programs struggled to adapt to change. Six top ranked Texas Athletic Directors that we spoke with on Saturday and Sunday said that they felt as if these leagues were highly benefitting from the current restrictions and that it was creating an unfair advantage to student athletes who either could not afford to pay-to-play or deemed this reward to be not worth the physical risk.

In July the UIL heard the objections and concerns from parents and coaches and decided to enact a complicated and impractical “modified schedule” to accommodate the demands of parents who were threatening to abandon public school athletics for these select leagues.

“They felt as if TEA was going one way and they (the UIL) were going another,” the San Antonio area AD said. “They talked it over with TEA and explained their predicament and they this is what they came up with.”

He says that athletic directors and school districts understand that allowing athletics but restricting on-campus learning is a real contradicting strategy, but one that was absolutely necessary.

“Select leagues have a great allure and sales pitch,” one East Texas coach said. “But reality is that if you have the money, you will play somewhere.”

The promise of success on the field, court or whatever is a dangerous thing. In fact, the Texas Department of State Health Services says that as of Friday they did not have the data as to how many youth have contracted COVID-19 while participating in recreational sports. They say that number would be almost impossible to obtain.

That being said, public health officials say that pediatric cases are rising but the extent to which children who have the disease can transmit it to others remains an unknown.

Experts with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston say that having kids return to on campus activities is a dangerous game and they are convinced that there is not enough precautions in the world that can be taken to prevent or slow the spread—especially in gym and workout settings.

So the short of the matter is that many coaches were pressured by Star dream driven parents and those coaches who thrive to win in turn pressured the UIL. The UIL then backed the TEA into a corner and force fed a bad idea in order to prevent a mass exodus of elite parents with star studded dreams to select sporting leagues.

Maybe the UIL and TEA are to blame, but in the end you have to ask it was them or a bunch of parents with high aspirations for their children? In the end, it’s just an example of another first-world problem in the middle of a global pandemic.

Matt Pierce Briscoe, Publisher and Managing Editor was the contributor of this content that was originally published on August 2, 2020.

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