Almost 200 Maine students, coaches and parents spent time this Labor Day urging officials to let school sports go forward.
On Monday, a crowd of 180 rallied outside Maine’s State House and the Blaine House, Maine’s governor’s mansion in Augusta, to urge state officials to work with the Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) and school leaders to allow all sports to play this fall.
Earlier in the summer, a smaller group of parents and students had formed a group called #letthemplay to draw attention to their concerns about the missed senior nights, unplayed seasons, disappointment and stress that not having fall school sports would bring.
“Sports is the motivating factor for a lot of student athletes,” said Jennifer LeBlanc, a Lakes Region mom with multiple kids who want to play sports this fall.
LeBlanc said she was encouraged in late August when the Maine Principals’ Association voted on a set of guidelines that would have allowed all high school sports to go on.
Last week, though, she was disheartened because commissioners from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education said the guidelines were not as stringent as they would prefer.
Fall Sports in Maine
School districts in Maine can independently make decisions about how to handle sports, but many have been waiting to see what the MPA and state suggest first.
For LeBlanc, changing activities to allow sports is not as difficult as a long wait.
She also feels that Maine allowing tourists from multiple states to travel here over the summer has put Mainers more in harm’s way than sports will.
“We don’t know how many of those tourist followed the guidelines,” said LeBlanc, who explained her children had worked at seasonal businesses in contact with many tourists this year.
“My kids have already been put at risk and there’s no reason to not allow this other side of the coin and reward them,” she said.
One of the people hoping for that reward is Riley Geyer. He is entering his senior year at Cony High School in Augusta and is slated to be a varsity quarterback this fall.
“I play football, baseball and basketball,” he explained, saying that “sports is my everything, it’s the main reason I go to school.”
For Geyer, the wait for a decision is what is most difficult. He told NECN/NBC10 Boston that he and his teammates are willing to wear face shields, masks or even attend class virtually so that a bubble could be created around the football team that would allow it to play more safely.
“As soon as we got to the high school, we dreamed about playing on alumni field and getting our senior night,” he said before adding, “we’ll do anything... we’ll do remote learning at our house instead of going into school to keep everyone else safe.”
Other students and parents said they were “anxious” or would “cry” if their youngest son could not play sports in his year.
Some, including Geyer, wish they knew more about how Gov. Janet Mills felt about the sports debate in Maine.
“If she somehow says no, I’ve talked to my parents about forming my own league,” he said.
Asked if the governor had any response to Monday’s rally, a spokesperson for the Mills administration pointed NECN/NBC10 Boston to a joint statement she made with MPA last week in which she said she wants fall sports to come back this year “in a way that protects the health of students on the field, in the locker room and in the classroom, while safeguarding members of the larger community.”
Mills also said she was “asking my Commissioners to work as a team with the MPA, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine School Superintendents Association to address concerns about the guidance as quickly as possible.”