Why high school sports are important during the pandemic

A way to fix COVID-19 fatigue, stress and anxiety


Leah Gelick/Talon

Cartoon illustration of a soccer ball wearing a face mask. As cases continue to drop in California, the return of sports seems inevitable.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, during this time of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, many have been feeling lonely and isolated. Oak Park Unified School District secondary schools have been closed for a year, with remote learning taking a toll on many students. 

For high school athletes, competitions and practices were postponed for what seemed like a lifetime. However, with infection rates and hospitalizations declining across California, youth and high school sports are slowly coming back. Compared to other states such as Florida and Georgia, who have started their fall seasons with only a slight delay, California did not have a fall competition season. 

With proper safety restrictions put into place, high school sports have positive effects on teens.

According to a study led by Professor Tim McGuine of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, participation in sports during the pandemic has been associated with mental and physical health benefits in adolescents. Athletes who returned to playing sports reported lower anxiety and depression symptoms. 

During the duration of COVID-19, more people have been struggling with mental health issues caused by isolation, school closures and lack of social activity. 

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, “the rates of substance abuse and recent suicidal thoughts are twice as high among teens than among adults.” In addition, emergency visits regarding mental health for adolescents have increased nearly 50%. 

Not only has COVID-19 harmed the mental well-being of high school athletes, but it has severely changed the way seniors are being recruited and earning scholarships for college. 

In fact, according to NBC Sports, “The coronavirus pandemic led to an NCAA dead period that has been extended until at least Aug. 31, thereby preventing college coaches and prospects from traveling to see one another in person. It also caused the cancellation of exposure camps that would have been held in the spring and early summer.”

Chances of colleges noticing the athletes of the class of 2021 are extremely slim. With no way for colleges to watch athletes in person, seniors have been scrambling for any creative ways to get a university’s attention. Whether it be through Zoom calls, email chains or a ring of the telephone, athletes are still encouraged to reach out and talk to college coaches to start building relationships… virtually. 

With proper safety protocols put into place, the return of high school sports is going to have a positive impact on athletes’ mental (and of course physical) well-being. As athletes, high school sports have helped us, and every person should be able to participate in any sport they choose to improve their health during this hard time.