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Tom Rysinski: Closing schools filled gap in logic of suspending sports

Updated May 18, 2020 - 11:16 am

The governor did something very reasonable Sunday, effectively closing down schools across the state in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But doing that had the unintended consequence of taking away one of my fundamental rights: the freedom to rant.

As of Thursday night, when Pahrump Valley High School shut down its athletic program, and as of Friday, when the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association did the same thing statewide, there was a glaring inconsistency in the policy. Practices were banned. Not just games, but practices.

Think about this: People made the conscious decision to say kids are not allowed to go to practice after school and spend time in an outdoor space with the same people they just spent hours with cooped up in classrooms.

Forgive me, but that was ridiculous. Pointless. Absurd. Stupid. Need I go on?

And don’t think this is a crazed tirade of someone who loves to complain and found an easy target, as accurate an assessment as that might be. Others, the ones who coach high school athletics, noticed, and they weren’t happy, either.

On Friday, PVHS track coach Fred Schmidt suggested that being at practice was the best thing for the students involved in sports under the circumstances.

“I do wonder why they are not canceling school since that is truly the big picture,” Schmidt wrote in response to an email after the high school’s decision but before the NIAA’s memo. “That would have the greatest success at stopping germs, instead of hampering those student-athletes who are exercising and instructed on proper nutrition and most likely have a healthier and stronger immune system.”

I don’t think I have to explain the logic in that. But in case the point needs to be hammered home, there was this from softball coach Cassondra Lauver.

“I have 36 to 38 kids in my room every period, sitting at the same tables that the class before them sat in,” said Lauver, a math teacher at Rosemary Clarke Middle School. She hesitated to criticize what at the time was only a school decision, not yet an NIAA or gubernatorial one, but the point is clear: If that many people are sitting in close quarters multiple times a day, why on earth would anyone suggest those same kids should be banned from baseball, softball or track practice?

It made no sense.

The Clark County School District had made its move earlier, but that is logical. With all of the international tourism in Las Vegas and tourists from all over this country, with how many people work in hotels, casinos, restaurants, etc., and how many of them have kids in schools, Las Vegas is a giant Petri dish whenever something breaks out.

And it made sense for Pahrump Valley High School to call off sports after the CCSD did, because there aren’t many schools on any of the Trojans’ schedules that aren’t in Clark County, especially after the opening early tournaments.

“We didn’t have much of a choice after CCSD made their decision, since that is who we primarily compete against,” acknowledged Jason Odegard, Pahrump Valley’s athletic administrator.

The logic of that was not lost on PVHS baseball coach Brian Hayes.

“It was to the point where it was, ‘Are we going to be OK, but if we’re OK, who are we going to play?” Hayes said Saturday in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where the Trojans opened — and possibly closed — the season at the Route 66 Baseball Classic. “There are a few private schools, so we could play Faith (Lutheran) or (Bishop) Gorman or Meadows, but then was it fair that we could play and everybody else was shut down?”

The Diocese of Las Vegas closed that possibility Friday by suspending sports at Bishop Gorman, and, of course, the NIAA’s move that day ended any such notion.

The baseball team was in a unique position when word came down that Pahrump Valley High School was suspending spring sports. The Trojans already were in Arizona before the decision was made, so they were, after a short conversation, permitted to complete the event. Logic was allowed to win a minor skirmish, but to that point the schools were still open and the decision halted practices.

“They are still making these kids go to school,” said an incredulous Drew Middleton, an assistant baseball coach and a Trojan baseball alum. “You’re saying that they can go to school and sit in a classroom all day, but you can’t play baseball afterwards? It makes no sense.”

Yes, that’s what they were saying, at least until they were bailed out by the governor, although it is obviously possible a decision to close might have been made at the local level had it not been done statewide.

None of that helps the baseball players, softball players, golfers and track athletes who are at risk of losing their seasons, especially the seniors. But at least now all of them know that the decision made was consistent, logical and rational. That is something that wasn’t the case for much of the weekend, and it made some of them question an otherwise reasonable policy.

Nobody — well, nobody rational — doubted the potential seriousness of the virus, how quickly it could spread or how easily it can be transmitted. Few questioned the need for drastic measures during this pandemic. But without logic and consistency, the entire policy can be opened up to questions, even when most of it is eminently justifiable.

And if there’s inconsistency in logic, you can bet a lot of kids will figure it out and freely point it out to anybody willing to listen. And some not willing to listen.

The governor took care of that. Let’s hope the decision to resume — from whoever — comes quickly.

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