SVSJ commentary: In the wake of the growing coronavirus threat, and the likely increased emphasis on forced “social distancing” measures in coming days, it’s time for youth sports to shut down completely for now

As you know, we have all week been discussing at some length the coronavirus situation and the impact on sports. Well, events that took place last night caused a seismic shift in thinking, and now should force youth and high school sports organizations to think harder about whether they should continue operations while this outbreak is taking place.

As you may have heard, the National Basketball Association announced a suspension of their season last night, hours after the league’s game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder – yes, them, the former Sonics – in Oklahoma City was suddenly canceled right before tipoff and the Thunder’s arena in downton OKC was evacuated upon word a player from the Jazz, believed to be but not officially confirmed to be star Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the ailment during an exam at a hospital near the arena. Additionally, a second game – between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings down in Sacramento, was canceled after players, upon learning one of the game’s scheduled referees had worked Utah’s previous game, refused to play the contest.

This season suspension announcement, on top of news from the NCAA and several of its member conferences and schools – including the Pac-12 Conference, Washington State University, the University of Washington and Colorado School of Mines – that they would be playing upcoming games, including the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in front of no fans aside from essential personnel and credentialed media and immediate family of players and the announcement of large gathering bans by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the state of Ohio and the city of San Francisco, should send a signal to all youth sports organizations that in the wake of the increasing concern about the disease and its easy spread, that it may be time to shut things down for awhile.

Youth events here in Washington are being canceled – we have learned that Spokane health authorities asked for and got cancellations of two significant youth sports events in the coming weeks over there: a major middle school basketball tournament this weekend, an event likely to have featured both Mount Si and Cedarcrest High School-linked youth travel basketball teams, and the big PNW Qualifier volleyball tournament that was slated to feature a large number of teams with local athletes, and this is on top of the cancellation we told you about yesterday of the volleyball tournament in Yakima.

Speaking of which, USA Volleyball’s Puget Sound Region announced cancellation of their upcoming local tournaments to comply with Governor Inslee’s new regulations on large gatherings, and the national organization also recommended a nationwide cancellation of tournaments through March 22. And just this morning, right before we posted this, we learned the Falls Little League had decided to cancel all of its baseball and softball activities through at least March 27.

Youth sports officials in all sports – whether that be USA Volleyball, ASA softball, Little League Baseball, US Youth Soccer, the Amateur Athletic Union for basketball, high school sports state associations such as the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and others too numerous to mention – need to prepare for shutdown of their activities, maybe for an extended period. Bans on large gatherings, which we previously discussed, and other so-called “social distancing” measures appear to be increasingly the choice of public health and political leaders as maybe the most effective tool absent any vaccines or other measures to help combat the spread of this thing.

There was a real good article about this Tuesday in The Atlantic that is worth a read; see that here. Granted, what is written there may sound extreme and alarmist to some of you, and there are real constitutional concerns of course with this idea of government-forced “social distancing” and bans on large gatherings, but the reality of the situation is is that it can be expected in the coming days that more municipalities and states will adopt this approach. Look, when you have leaders described as very liberal such as Democrat Governor Inslee here in Washington and others that are more conservative in their political leanings, such as Republican Governor DeWine in Ohio or even Spokane mayor Nadine Woodward, elected also as a Republican last fall, calling for these measures in varying degrees, you know that this clearly is going to be the desired approach. And bans on large gatherings will impact youth sports events all over this country, forcing their postponement or outright cancellation.

As we have discussed previously, the decision-making being made at the political and health level at this point is being made with no guarantees the situation will improve. This outbreak is something unprecedented for everyone right now, and absent any effective solutions, it seems that sporting events in general are events that frankly aren’t going to be able to continue in our view. Simply playing games in closed arenas or fields, after the news about the Jazz player last night, is not going to be enough anymore.

We, folks, sadly, appear to be entering a period where any form of organized sport activity – whether that be at the pro, college, high school or youth level – will have to be shut down and be shut down for some time. The risk appears to be too great at this point and youth sports organizations have to be ready. We call on all youth sports entities, including the ones mentioned above, to seriously consider full shutdown of their activities nationally, and to do so until such time as authorities believe it is safe for athletes and fans to be together again. We say this by the way not trying to be alarmist at all, we just see the situation for what it is, and want people to be ready.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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