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The View From Pluto: Getting Kids Back to Sports Is About More Than Competition

Tim Evanson
Wikimedia Commons
Cleveland Heights High School's football stadium.

High school sports are resuming activities for the first time since March, when seasons were canceled amid the pandemic. But the Senate Athletic League for Cleveland schools has been slow to get students back on the field. 

Sports commentator Terry Pluto says school sports are about much more than competition.

Isolation and depression
Pluto says one of the biggest concerns among teachers, coaches, others in education and parents are kids being isolated and becoming depressed.

"It creates a bad situation, which we see not only with adults," Pluto said. "We've neglected the fact that for teenagers and for younger kids. It's been a big problem."

"These kids have been away from school, away from each other, and they are depressed."

Concerns from high school coaches
Gov. Mike DeWine allowed high school sports to resume training on May 26, known as Phase I. This week, they've been allowed to resume scrimmages and full training.

While Akron schools and other suburban districts have begun meeting, Pluto says the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has been "dragging its feet" on the matter.

Rodney Decipeda, the head football coach and a biology teacher at John Hay High School the past 13 years, reached out to Pluto to express his concerns about kids being away for so long. 

"These kids have been away from school, away from each other, and they are depressed," Pluto said. 

"Despite having Zoom conversations and other means of communication, some of these kids are in bad places."

"You're going to have to do stuff differently. But I'd rather do it different than not at all."

Why it matters
Ted Ginn of Glenville, a nationally known name in high school sports, also raised concerns about not being able to get his players together. 

"The need for them to be out and be with people is a very, very important part of their growing up socially at this point," Pluto said. 

Pluto attended Benedictine High School in Cleveland, where sports was a big part of his life because of the friendships he made. 

"I would have been really heartbroken had I lost the spring of my senior year at Benedictine," Pluto said. He played baseball at Benedictine.  "I still run into some people I played baseball together or sat with on the JV basektball bench and you have that common bond."

The Senate Athletic League for Cleveland schools ended up getting a July 1 start date.

As for the fall, Pluto says while it may be up in the air, the schools should form a plan. 

"So they don't play as many games or decide they don't have tackle football, but we'll go out and have some sort of flag football. You go and figure it out. The idea being it's time to move forward. You're going to have to do stuff differently. But I'd rather do it different than not at all." 


Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Sean Fitzgerald is an announcer/board operator at Ideastream Public Media.