Talk Show Host Ashley Butenschoen talks Spring football at Lynden High School with Coach Van Dalen and one of the players…
The Cause of Divide:
As time progresses, we all have become united in one element of life. That unification is derived from the year long lockdown that we have all been living through. This year we have all learned how to live life in a unique and different matter, working from home, online schooling, not eating at your favorite restaurant on a Sunday Morning or wearing a mask every time you step into public. What has seemed to cause divide, however, is how we personally feel regarding this lockdown, and the Covid-19 virus.
While some remain entranced in a state of fear; unwilling to waiver; due to their belief policies are based on sound science and reason; others have become more and more skeptical as time ticks on. And many, like myself, still find themselves in a sort of Covid limbo, where we have concerns for health issues in the community, in families and on personal health as well; and can see the negative impacts that lockdowns are having on my community. It is breaking my heart.
Last night, from behind a fence I watched my son’s last football game as a freshmen due to the restrictions of governor Inslee. Why?
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Blake VanDalen, who is the Head Coach of the Lynden Football Team, and Christian, and a senior student athlete for Lynden High School regarding their thoughts about the lockdowns brought on by Covid and the effects that they are having, not just their football season, but students and kids as a whole. PODCAST HERE.
Lynden High School has recently been allowed to begin participating in Football once again, however, there are still some restrictions they are running up against.
“We’re so happy to have games!” Says Coach VanDalen. “I want to be Crystal Clear about that. This is what we really needed for these kids, for them to get out on the field and have an opportunity to compete.” But the Coach was quick to point out that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. “So it’s interesting.” He says, “That once you solve one problem, another one pops up.”
When asked about which problem he was referring to he went on to explain:
“We have a football program that has over 80 players and 20 coaches, so I typically have 100 people on the sideline alone. We have a 200 person limit (at games) and when you play a team like Ferndale, we have to leave some players at home, and no fans are allowed to go. There is typically two to four thousand people at those games, and I totally understand we can’t do that, it just would have been nice to have some fans, appropriately spaced, in the crowd.”
This means that when athletes compete, they are competing in an empty stadium, there are no cheerleaders, no bands, no vendors or cheering supporters, but most importantly, no parents. This seems strange at a venue that can host four thousand people, when you think that even at 25% capacity you are still looking at one thousand people, in an outdoor setting. I soon realized that the football program seems to be getting hit the hardest by these restrictions. And once again, our youth are suffering.
“The numbers given (people allowed) to athletic programs work perfectly for some sports.” Coach VanDalen continues, “Our volleyball kids each receive four tickets to give to family, which sounds amazing. Well for football, our first home game we had ten tickets, meaning
half of our seniors got to bring one parent, and we are an outdoor sport. Which when you think about how large a football stadium is, it’s really a tough decision for our athletic director to decide which ten parents got to watch the twenty seniors in one of their six games this year. So it’s a tough one to swallow. But once again I would just like to reiterate that we are very happy to get the opportunity to coach these kids and that they get to play a season, but that’s just another little hill we are trying to climb and hopefully they can solve a few more problems before we get to the end of the season.”
Youth Sports help teach discipline, teamwork and other fundamentals student athletes will carry with them the rest of their life. One of the other things Youth Sports brings is for families and community to gather and cheer on their student athletes. Seeing the kids run onto a field for at least sixty minutes of that day and give all their focus to this activity is what Youth Sports are all about.
I asked Christian about the importance of having family and friends at games as he plays,
“Well, I think its always nice to have the support of one of your family members, its always one of those things that’s really helpful in the game and it keeps you going. But having just the opportunity to play at all is really the best part of it all and Im kind of just letting it go and going with what gets chosen. Im just here to play.”
Okay, so maybe they don’t see our presence at a game as being of the importance that we do as a Mother or Father. I feel that my son would probably give me the exact same answer if I asked him if he needed me there to be happy while playing. But the point still remains that if a stadium has the capacity to fit one thousand people at 25% capacity in an outdoor setting, why aren’t we allowing the parents of every student athlete to attend?
I truly admire Christian’s positive attitude towards playing during this lockdown. It was easy to tell his love for the game of football and the joy he felt from being back on the field with his friends again. I was able to ask him about the importance of youth sports and what it means to him.
“Its really important, being stuck at home all the time is one of the issues of this whole quarantine and the Covid thing that makes it really difficult to go out and do things and be able to keep your body moving and keep yourself healthy.
Having these extra-curricular activities is very helpful in making you able to get out there and able to do something and really get your blood going, and you know, play something and do something.”
But it’s not just football that kids have had taken away from them. Its Drama classes, its band camps, its Glee club, its speech and debate teams.
Is there an emergency? Why are we saying thank you to Inslee for allowing us to slow roll things back to normal? These restrictions are not based on science and they are not based on flattening the curve nor keeping our institutions from being overwhelmed.
So how do we allow our children to get back into these xtra-curricular events while still protecting ourselves and our loved ones from Covid?
“That’s been the toughest struggle. I’m a father of three young boys at home, but I also have a high risk mom that we are trying to protect from Covid. I think we can do a better job, and in that I mean I feel like there has been a ton of attention given to protecting those at high risk, and I totally understand and see that, but I’m really concerned about the future of our youth. We need to understand there is going to be a ripple effect that’s coming because of all this isolation. These kids who are not in the high risk category, they need to have this outlet, they need to have this connection.”
Balancing the need for safety and the need for youth growth and activity… Coach Van Dalen:
“I think my biggest thing would be that we need to understand that there can be healthy interactions. We don’t just want to open everything up, I totally understand that, but at the same time we need to allow businesses to make money in a safe way. We need to allow schools to operate in a safe way. So we need to operate less out of fear. We have had enough time to understand that we can safely play sports. We should have at least 25% of the bleachers filled versus a huge stadium empty, you know there is just some common sense that needs to go into it. We want to be safe, and we are being safe, but we also need to move forward.
Trust people to make the right choice. In my humble opinion it’s not always the governments job to protect all the people, they need to put things in place to allow the people to protect themselves. Hopefully we keep moving forward and learn from this, and I’m just thankful for the things they have allowed us to do and the structure that Lynden High School has given us to be successful.”
With 90 kids suited up last night the season has wrapped up, kids were so full of joy to be with each other. Full with the spirit of football family. Let’s hope that we can play like normal this coming fall.
These kids desperately need to get back to a life of thriving.