PORTSMOUTH — Kate Beland has seen downtown businesses and restaurants rally after city officials, residents and business owners came together and formulated a plan to create a safe, socially-distanced atmosphere in the past two months.
The mother of two student-athletes at Portsmouth High School would like to see the same type of compromise resonate in terms of the upcoming school year, when it comes to whether or not fall sports can be played.
“Our community has done an amazing job coming together to think outside the box to help save our local downtown businesses … all ideas supported and implemented by our city government and citizens,” Beland said. “Shouldn’t we be coming together to do the same for our youth/young adult community?”
Beland, along with fellow Portsmouth High School parents Monica Zingariello and Meegan Sciretto, started a petition “Let Us Play Portsmouth” on Monday night.
“There is a deep need for kids to return to some sort of normalcy,” said Sciretto, who serves as president of the PHS football boosters. “We are trying as a society to live in the midst of a pandemic. There is no question that there is and will be an absolute willingness by athletes, coaches and parents to follow all protocols for a safe return. The NHIAA has provided us with guidelines to move forward, so why wouldn’t we try to make this work?”
Beland hopes the petition will allow the decision makers to “think outside the box and do the very best we can for our student-athletes.”
PHS junior Kyra Brummage, who plays field hockey for the Clippers, signed the petition.
“We’ve been preparing for our season before summer began,” Brummage wrote. “Canceling fall season would be giving up on our student-athletes by taking an easy way out. As a student-athlete I am more than willing to take necessary precautions to stay safe while continuing on with our season.”
Brummage ended her comment with the hashtag: LetUsPlay.
As of Friday afternoon, nearly 700 people had signed the online petition.
“I probably know 99% of the people that have signed the petition and obviously we support them 100%,” Portsmouth High School athletic director Rus Wilson said. “Nobody wants fall sports more than we do, but we have to work with a lot of people to make sure everyone is safe.”
Wilson believes a decision regarding fall sports at PHS will not be made for “at least another week to 10 days.”
“Everybody is doing everything they can to make sure these kids are safe, and we’ll make sure they play one way or another,” Wilson said. “If not against other schools, we’ll play internally and have things after school. We think it’s really important for the kids to be socially active, as well as physically active. The kids will be playing sports, it’s just a matter if they are playing amongst themselves or against other schools.”
The NHIAA approved the start of fall sports last month, while leaving the decision to participate up to each individual school district.
“As a mom of three athletes and involved in multiple sports programs, I have seen first-hand how much the kids can handle rules, especially when it comes to this virus,” said Zingariello, who serves as vice president of the PHS volleyball boosters. “There is no doubt they are willing and able to follow rules of any game played. If NHIAA can deliver well thought out guidelines that were well followed all summer, then why can’t we do the same for our fall athletes? The kids are very vigilant and respectful in their everyday life and they understand the severity of getting someone else sick.”
Added Sciretto: “Sports and extracurricular activities are structures that are very important to our kids’ growth and well-being. As a parent of two student-athletes, I have seen first-hand the effects of the past five months.”