A state assembly resolution titled “Let Them Play CA” has gained momentum over the past few months. Many parents, students, and coaches are supporting the movement and demanding to bring back recreational and competitive sports.
The resolution also grabbed the attention of state legislators including 55th District State Assemblyman Philip Chen.
“School sports and extracurriculars are very valuable to students K-12, especially older students in high school. Those juniors and seniors use sports and extracurriculars as the way to get into further education and college and receive those scholarships and without school sports and activities, scouts aren’t looking at them, they’re not being scouted, they’re losing their chances at further education,” Chen said.
Chen has been involved in politics for most of his life and has helped local communities in California during the pandemic.
He has hand-delivered materials and safety tools such as masks, hand sanitizer, face shields and gowns to communities and services including the local law enforcement, fire departments and healthcare workers.
Chen also worked to approve a billion-dollar state COVID-19 budget.
Supporters of the Let Them Play movement argue that after-school sports and extracurricular activities benefit students’ mental health and should be available for students now, especially since many conduct school online at home all day.
“It’s a problem, those students don’t have that sports or activities that they may participate in after school anymore to help them with their mental health. It’s proven that students develop character [from these activities] and help their minds positively, or that can get them a scholarship,” Chen added.
Of course, there is hesitation and opposition to this resolution as there are concerns about the safety of student-athletes at all levels due to the spread of COVID-19.
However, placing an emphasis on personal responsibility for older student-athletes, organizing events to take place outdoors, and emphasizing reasonable social distancing seems to be feasible steps to take towards re-opening schools, playing sports and facilitating extra-curricular activities.
Another benefit to after-school activities is that they keep kids out of trouble, Chen explained.
Some students at “Let Them Play” gatherings have shared stories of depression leading to drug and alcohol abuse among other things due to the lack of after-school activities in their schedules.
“Sports and other after-school activities were great for students to get away from violence, gangs, and drug usage and without it’s worse on the students,” Chen continued.
Besides a lack of activity for students, without live sporting events, there are fewer opportunities for scouts to observe student-athletes to offer scholarships, some of which make the difference between kids going to college or not.
As of February 11, the Let Them Play California movement is currently an education first movement.
The primary goal is to return students to the classroom in person before they get back on the field.
Being responsible with regards to COVID-19 is a priority, but the challenge remains finding a safe way to return in-person, especially given that some students may themselves be in the high-risk category or have high-risk family members.
However, the state legislators don’t have complete control over whether or not kids get to go back to school.
“We need local governments to take over and decide what is allowed for our students to go back to sports and extracurriculars, we shouldn’t have someone in Sacramento decide what’s safer for someone in Los Angeles or in SoCal.” Assemblyman Chen added.
The roll-out of the vaccine signals hope for in-person activities of all types.
Only time shall tell if the “Let Them Play” movement will make a difference, or if sports will not resume until COVID-19 is completely under control.