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Protests to resume high school sports hit the Capitol Saturday

Weekly protests planned in hopes of decision change

By Carter Eckl ceckl@nevadaappeal.com

Those in favor of playing high school sports in the midst of a global pandemic continued to make their voices heard on Saturday afternoon in downtown Carson City.

Around 125 to 150 student-athletes, kids, parents and coaches stood at the intersection in front of the Nevada State Capitol protesting for the resumption of athletics in Northern Nevada.

As of Thursday, eight states across the country – including Nevada – had no fall competitions scheduled, per the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The discussions since the initial decision to call off fall sports in Nevada in late July have only continued to become more nuanced.

Where to turn next

Much of the pushback to the postponement of the fall sports calendar has come due to a lack of transparency as to where the decision ultimately stemmed from.

On Sept. 9, around 50 athletes and parents protested outside of the Washoe County School District to resume athletics.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill told those outside, the decision came from the NIAA, per the reporting of Reno Gazette Journal’s Jim Krajewski.

During last week’s NIAA meeting, the NIAA directed the outcries toward Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“We’ve asked the superintendents, the school boards, the principals, the NIAA and finally we got the answer last week that it really comes down to the Governor. The Governor needs to be more clear with his directives,” said Damonte Ranch assistant varsity football coach Joe Lawrence Saturday in downtown Carson.

However, the NIAA officially approved the postponement of high school sports until January 2 during its quarterly board meeting last week.

Just hours after Saturday’s protests outside of the Capitol, the Reno Gazette Journal reported Washoe County currently has the highest number of confirmed active COVID-19 cases ever (1,418).

As of Friday, the Quad Counties region had 131 active cases with 58 of those being in Carson City.

Clark County in Southern Nevada is currently under a full-distance learning directive.

The future of youth athletes

One discussion that hasn’t pivoted is the direct impact on those students who use athletics as an escape or even an avenue as a potential future.

“It’s my senior year and last year of high school football. It’s also a chance to prove myself and everything that I’ve been working for,” said Douglas senior Cameron Swain, who has been garnering college interest for his talents on the field.

“You don’t have anymore time in high school,” said Bishop Manogue senior football player Fred Tavernier. “(We) have to make the memories that we can.”

Athletes will still get six-week seasons starting in January – with winter sports followed by fall and spring – but the hope for those who want the resumption of prep athletics is to get even more time on the field.

Everyone assesses risk in different ways, which continues to add to the nuance of the discussion.

Douglas High’s Christopher Smalley and Swain as well as Tavernier said they felt safe throughout summer workouts, especially with the implementation of safety protocols.

“We couldn’t use weights so we used sandbags and everyone had their own sandbag. We wore masks, so I thought it was safe,” said Smalley.

“Our coaches would punish us if we wouldn’t keep our distance or following guidelines with what was supposed to be going on,” Tavernier said.

There’s something to be said for high school athletes speaking up for causes they believe in and they’re not planning on going away.

Saturday’s protest to resume sports in Nevada was the first of many as organizers stated they expect it to become a weekly event.

For now, sports will remain on hold in the Silver State, but those who feel sports should restart are hoping they’ll be able to play more than the six-week seasons scheduled to start in January.