Submitted by Melissa H. Abbazia
To Whom it may concern,
On behalf of parents in the State of Connecticut, I am writing to implore you to closely examine the shutdown of this fall’s 2020 high school football season.
Joining 40,000 Connecticut petitioners consisting of players, coaches, parents and fans – I am the mother of a High School Senior Caption, TJ Abbazia, here in Greenwich.
At the recommendation of the Acting Commissioner of the DPH, Deidre Gifford – Governor Ned Lamont made the mandate to prohibit 11 x 11 fall season/full contact football – YET…35 of our other United States have proceeded with their seasons and youth football is being played all over our State.
Initially when entering into phase two – we got the green light for training. Our football coaches and players all followed strict protocol including, but not limited to, practicing in cohorts, wearing masks, social distancing, temperature checks and health check waiver submissions. We had zero cases.
While Connecticut’s current numbers are among the lowest in the Nation – high school football has been disproportionately singled out and treated unequally in comparison to all the other fall school sports which are now underway. And equal access to school means to all of school – not just selected academic subject areas. This is an equity and inclusion issue impacting a select group’s rights to a free and appropriate public education. Both the Departments of Health and Education need to look through the lens of the law that protect student’s access to all educational opportunities.
We are asking for the high school football teams to be treated equally. They deserve the chance to play. We mitigated the risks and took precautions and the metrics are at an all-time low. Athletes playing outside have a marginal risk of contracting COVID in comparison to potential likelihood of cancelled football disrupting their emotional and mental stability! There are no factual statistics to prove that players will in fact contract COVID from playing contact football – look at the excess of 1,000 games that have already been played in our Nation this fall.
What must be investigated is the negative impact the decision to cancel football will have on well over 3,700 high school boys here in CT. It unfairly impacts educational opportunities, erodes motivation – sense of meaning – purpose – belonging to a community – self-concepts and general well-being. Science proves participating in team sports wards off depression. And research proves that children exposed to adverse childhood experiences reported better mental health as adults when they engage in team sports. Further, organized team sports also provides protection to some kids that have unfavorable home situations. Team sports, like Football, help kids learn important social skills, how to interact with their peers more effectively, and how to both lead and negotiate with other children to reach a common goal. Children struggling with emotional regulation or interacting with others say structured settings of team sports help create a safe environment to learn important social skills. And learning these skills in childhood will lead to more positive experiences in the future and the healthy minded adults of our future. Children need structured social sports where they can learn appropriately and be safe – sports help build persistence, resilience and are most positive influencers later on in life.
Connecticut would be most indebted if you would consider actively probing into our high school football state of affairs and take into consideration lending your aid in resolving our plight in any way that you can.
Melissa H. Abbazia