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BRAD ROBICHAUX — What’s best for athletes’ health is what’s best for the sport

Honestly, I don’t think there are a whole lot of arguments to be made when debating the viability of a group program versus the health of its members.

What’s more important? The group or their health?

Especially when it comes to kids, health takes priority over whatever organization or activity they engage in, no matter how eager the kids might be to keep participating.

I also have no doubt everyone in charge of our area’s school athletics programs prioritize the health of the athletes — the coaches, district officials, parents and the University Interscholastic League. Everyone wants what’s best for the health of our athletes.

Sometimes what’s best are interruptions.

It might be in an athlete’s sports career because of injury, or for an entire program because of the risk of spreading infection.

As such, it’s never easy to decide to put a whole program on ice, like Memorial High School athletic director Brian Morgan did for football during summer workouts.

“These decisions are very hard, and you have a lot of discussion about them,” Morgan said. “They would be a little bit easier if you had some direction on the season. If you knew the season was backed up two months, it wouldn’t even be a question — you probably wouldn’t even do summer workouts. There’s so many things that are just unknown, so it’s hard to make a decision, but we’re trying to do everything in the best interest of the kids.”

The UIL seems to have the same attitude. Officials already mandated Tuesday and Wednesday this week were supposed to be free from workouts.

Then on July 1 they recommended high schools to take off all of this week, and the Friday before off as well.

The Fourth of July means social gatherings for most folks in America, so it makes sense to try to limit exposure by keeping kids away from their schools for a little while before starting workouts again.

Nederland athletic director Monte Barrow thinks it makes sense, too. He and his team all share the same health concerns, he says.

“We’ve had kids call in and say ‘Coach, I was with someone that tested because they had some symptoms,’ and they’ve done a really good job recognizing that, contacting us, staying home until that person’s test results came back, or their own test results come back,” Barrow said.  “We’ve been fortunate that our kids have been on top of that aspect of that.”

As resolute as our athletes, coaches and officials are when it comes to fighting back against COVID-19, the pandemic, especially here in Texas, is keeping the situation quite fluid. Coaches are taking the summer a week at a time, knowing circumstances could change quite quickly.

I’m still uncertain about what the future holds, but if everyone stays vigilant, if everyone stays compliant, and everyone keeps the safety and health of the athletes foremost in all considerations, I think we can expect to see sports return in August.

So far, despite one football player testing positive for COVID-19, Morgan says the Titans have stood tall.

“We’re very fortunate to get through three and a half weeks,” he said. “We started the first day and made it through all those days. From a football standpoint I think we’re pretty far ahead compared to some other people in the coaching business. The guys get a week off, and they’ll have time to do other stuff, but we’ll be ready to go in the fall.”

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at brad.robichaux@panews.com