Local athletes do themselves proud as statewide movement builds momentum


Submitted photo – H-DNL students show their support for a return to prep sports in Ferndale on Friday afternoon.

By Ray Hamill — Once again local student athletes did themselves proud at Friday’s “Let Them Play CA” rally in Ferndale, coming together to express their frustration in an articulate manner.

The local rally was one of 140 organized statewide by the “Let Them Play CA” grassroots movement in an effort to try and pressure Governor Gavin Newsom and state health officials to allow high school and youth sports return to competition.

Several local athletes spoke at the Ferndale rally, as rival schools came together for a cause that is fast building momentum all around the state.

“Tonight we stand here together because we want to play,” Fortuna senior Saige Grundman told the gathering, speaking alongside fellow seniors Hallie Short of Ferndale and Bella Vigil of Eureka.

The “Let Them Play CA” movement argues that not only does the lack of youth sports competition have a negative impact on the mental health of young athletes, but also takes away a lifetime of memories for the seniors in particular.

High school sports in California have been on hold since mid-March.

Advocates of the movement, which now numbers more than 33,000 members, also argue that a return to sports competition can be done safely, much like vast majority of the country has managed.

“We are asking why is it safer to play in 40 other states?” Ferndale senior Jenner Christiansen told the rally. “We now have the data and research that we can do this right and keep our community safe while we still get a chance to participate in sports.”

According to multiple reports, the states that have returned to competitive high school sports are not seeing any notable rise in COVID numbers because of it.

In addition, studies have shown that a lack of sports competition is having a serious effect on the mental health of young student athletes.

Pediatrician Dr. Anna Mendenhall told a round table discussion on the Youth Sports Network Facebook page that research from mid-March to mid-October shows “kids with mental health problems, the rates are skyrocketing because of no sports.”

A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin shows that 50 percent of young athletes not allowed to compete in the midst of the pandemic are suffering from depression.

The 140 rallies held around the state was well up from the 100 rallies anticipated.

A second round of rallies is in the works for Jan. 29, with an emphasis on a limited number of larger rallies.

Governor Newsom has yet to publicly address the situation in the wake of Friday’s rallies.

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