After being shut down for nearly two months due to COVID-19 the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was reopened this week.

That’s great news if you’re Gordon Gekko but if you are a 16-year-old kid falling behind in your social studies class or a 10-year-old hoping to play some baseball this summer it doesn’t do you one bit of good.

It really doesn’t make much sense either considering that out of the more than 1.6 million confirmed COVID cases in the United States so far, only 42,000 have been kids under the age of 18.

In Minnesota, as of earlier this week there had been under 1,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst Minnesotans aged six to 19 and zero deaths.

Yet schools are still closed, and summers sports and recreational opportunities are cancelled in some cities and teetering on the edge of existence in other areas.

Again, confusing and frustrating.

Those who are making the rules (mostly up as they go) can be heard to say ‘follow the science’ to justify their decisions, but I have yet to see the study that shows seven people gathered together to eat dinner in a restaurant leads to a higher COVID infection rate then six.

One thing that is starting to become glaringly obvious though is one of the groups hit hardest by the restrictions put in place to flatten the curve – outside of small business owners – have been school aged kids, who were sent home from high schools and colleges in mid-March.

Proponents of the move might point to stay-at-home learning and say, hey, that’s why the infections are as low as they are in that demo.

But one look outside your door – or in the aisleways of Target and Walmart if you live on the Iron Range – will tell you that most kids didn’t stay home for long.

And we really won’t know for years what effect distance learning on short notice will have on this generation of children. My guess is the damage will ultimately outweigh any benefit sending them home was intended to create.

It will also have a negative effect on our teachers, many of whom are frustrated and emotionally drained. A recent poll by USA Today and Ipsos found that one in five teachers have already decided they won’t return to the profession in the fall as a result of distance learning and the disconnect related to it.

That same study of a cross section of parents and teachers found that 86 percent of teachers and 60 percent of parents are “worried about (the) children right now,” while 76 percent of teachers and 46 percent of parents feel “distance learning is causing the children to fall behind.”

It’s not the fault of teachers or school administrators – they were not prepared for this and couldn’t hope to be. They did the best they could, and in some cases went above and beyond to make it work.

For student athletes, the COVID related school closings have been a double whammy. Sports and being part of an organized team is an important part of the school experience.

Particularly for those on the fringe that that find an accepting home on a team – the type of student athlete that doesn’t fit into your typical jock profile.

Organized sports might be that one thing that is holding their interest and keeping them engaged in the educational experience. Without it they can easily lose themselves.

As a coach, I see this type of kid year in and year out. Keeping them focused and a part of my team is a priority for me because I know the temptation to deviate from the straight and narrow as a teenager can be overwhelming.

We are all a little self-destructive when we have too much time on our hands.

But thanks to COVID and strict rules put in place in St. Paul and by the Minnesota State High School League – the organization that governs when and where and how we can coach – our connection with student athletes has essentially been severed since the end of March.

The rules they handed down to coaches tied our hands and restricted our ability to communicate with them – and perhaps more importantly mentor them - in any meaningful way.

And so we sit and wait and hope for a lifting of restrictions as we head into summer.

Some coaches, those not under the thumb of the MSHSL, are already moving forward with plans to get student athletes back on the fields and in the gyms if possible. One of those is Tom Coombe, the longtime Ely area baseball coach who was featured in a Mesabi Daily News story last Sunday.

Coombe is trying to organize a season and figure out ways to practice and hopefully play games. Good for him and his student athletes. But he will find returning to any sort of “normal” youth sporting activity may be easier said than done.

While traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were able to return to work if they wore masks and kept an adequate social distance from their fellow traders (all will face health screenings and temp checks as they enter the building), youth coaches around the country were sent a 16 page email last week from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee providing “guidance for opening up high school athletics and activities.”

In it, officials wrote: “Until a cure, vaccine or very effective treatment is readily available, or so-called ‘herd immunity’ is confidently reached, social distancing and other preventive measures such as face covering will be a ‘new normal’ if workouts, practices and contests are to continue.

The email outlined a (suggested) three phased return to the world of youth sports as we knew it pre 2020 that includes protocols for keeping safe distances, limited practices (pods of 10 people at any one time), weight room restrictions, washing habits, locker room plans, and so on and so forth.

Under phase one, a few examples of what could take place include things like a basketball player can shoot with a ball(s), but a team should not practice/pass a single ball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball; a football player should not participate in team drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other teammates or have contact with other players and no sharing of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds; and softball and baseball players should not share gloves, bats, or throw a single ball that will be tossed among the team.

They finished that section off with this statement: Prior to another athlete using the same balls, they should be collected and cleaned individually.

There are also guidelines for social distancing on buses and on the benches and sidelines, and, of course, tiers for letting individuals into events grouping people into essential and non-essential roles including athletes, coaches, officials (tier 1); media (tier 2); and finally, spectators (tier 3).

Yes, mom and dad, you are last in line.

Perhaps you should have pushed your children to be stock traders instead of point guards.


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