Jacob Humphrey, a senior at Bonny Eagle High: “I feel like now, they’re just going to cancel the fall sports and I feel players and parents haven’t really had the opportunity to be heard by anyone, by the MPA, or anyone.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Pick a word that describes an emotional response to an uncertain future and it probably applies to how high school athletes across Maine are feeling. They are waiting to find out if they will have a fall sports season, and getting messages from social media and even school administrators that indicate the coronavirus pandemic might have already won.

“COVID is definitely real. There is the risk of getting it but I just feel it’s not as bad as losing the season,” said Jacob Humphrey, a senior three-sport athlete at Bonny Eagle High.

Some answers may come as early as Tuesday, when the Maine Principals’ Association’s Interscholastic Management Committee meets. But even if the MPA gives a clear go-ahead for athletics, local school districts, many of which have decided to go with a hybrid learning model, will have the final say.

Humphrey, 17, feels marginalized. He already lost a baseball season this spring. And he doesn’t sound confident he’ll get to play his final season of football for the defending Class A champion Scots.

“I feel like now, they’re just going to cancel the fall sports and I feel players and parents haven’t really had the opportunity to be heard by anyone, by the MPA, or anyone,” he said.

“We would do whatever it would take. We would wear a mask. I’m sure any players would follow regulations that would come up.”

A member of the Maine Lightning baseball program, Humphrey estimated he’s participated in at least 40 organized practices and games this summer, including baseball tournaments in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He’s seen no evidence of infections because of sport.

“I feel like we’ve proven we can follow the regulations so why not at least try for a fall season?” Humphrey asked.

LYDIA STEIN feels sad when she thinks about the possibility of losing her senior soccer season at Portland High. While Portland hasn’t finalized its back-to-school plan, the proposal on the table calls for full remote learning for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“Listening to the school board, it has been very negative about playing fall sports and I feel like Portland could opt out of playing fall sports which would be very sad,” Stein said.

This summer, Stein has worked as a cashier at the Marden’s in Scarborough. That’s given her first-hand experience on how to take precautions. She also pointed to Maine’s position as one of the few states that has kept the virus tamped down throughout the summer.

“Maine has been so good, the No. 1 state, and if we follow all the guidelines we should be able to play and I feel we could do so safely,” Stein said. “Sports offers so much more than just playing the sport. We’re like family and our mental health, we need sports. It’s not the winning and losing, it’s just the being together.”

CADEN McDUFFIE is exasperated. He believes decision-makers aren’t analyzing Maine’s COVID-19 numbers closely enough.

Caden McDuffie

A junior who expects to be the quarterback for Cape Elizabeth’s football team this season, McDuffie has certainly crunched the numbers. He quickly ticks off a few stats: Maine’s rate of positive tests is well below 1 percent, two people under the age of 40 have died from COVID-19 in Maine, hospitalizations are low, and that the recovery rate for those infected is a cumulative 99.7 percent for Mainers under the age of 60.

“My age group is 100 percent recovered. We don’t go to the hospital and we don’t die,” McDuffie said.

McDuffie agreed with the decision to shut down high school sports in the spring, “Because you just didn’t know. I thought it was going to be the apocalypse, body bags everywhere. But right now, to play that ‘don’t know’ game, I just don’t buy it.”

For McDuffie, taking away sports creates more risk than it lessens.

“I just don’t understand why leaders are going to risk our mental health and our futures on something that’s not going to hurt us,” McDuffie said. “I’m worried suicides and drug overdoses, those are going to go up. Those are problems that hurt our age group at way too much of a rate already.”

AVERY DUBE is more hopeful than some of her peers that a fall season will happen. The senior volleyball player at Yarmouth High credited both the MPA and Cumberland County superintendents for doing “a really good job of trying to adjust.”

“They’ve at least made an attempt of having a season, instead of shutting it down completely, or opening up completely, which would be horrific in some parents’ eyes, I believe,” Dube said.

Volleyball is Maine’s only indoor sport in the fall. Dube said the game can be played safely, noting any close physical contact is almost always with teammates who “you go to school with and practice with and you’re going to be exposed to those germs anyway.”

While noting that she’s observed “my generation doing a better job of wearing masks and washing hands immediately,” Dube said she does have concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Could playing sports contribute to a spike in cases? And will her peers self-report symptoms, especially if a key rivalry game is approaching? She saw players ignore flu symptoms last year?

“They just played through their sick feeling if it’s an important game,” Dube said. “That’s what athletes do. We’ve been taught to stick through it but now, how do you know if it’s the flu or something bigger?”


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