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"Let Them Play" Movement Gathers Momentum In Oregon

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An online movement called "Let Them Play Oregon" is calling for immediately restarting youth athletics with no restrictions, and it's gaining traction in southern Oregon.

Like many activities, youth sports have been sidelined by the pandemic. This has presented challenge for parents seeking ways to keep school-age children active and engaged. What few social options are available for young people come with a heavy price of social restrictions.

Now, an online movement called "Let Them Play Oregon" is calling for immediately restarting youth athletics with no restrictions, and it's gaining traction in southern Oregon. The movement's Facebook page has amassed over 24,000 followers in just over 2 weeks. The Josephine County Board of Commissioners is among the groups supporting the movement. On June 12th the Board signed on to a letter sent to Governor Kate Brown in support of the Let Them Play initiative.

Commissioner Lily Morgan says, "We are asking for all activities to be open, and to allow individuals to make that decision for themselves. There are still people that will have a need to be cautious, but there are also others that want to make the decision to move forward and I want to honor them as well."

The Governor's office says Brown appreciates the desire to get kids back on the field.

"Our office continues to engage in conversations with stakeholders––from the professional level to the youth sports level––about how sports activities can resume safely in Oregon ... While we would like to give youth athletes and parents more certainty around this issue, especially given the positive mental and physical benefits sports can provide in times like these, this is unfortunately a case where the spread of coronavirus will dictate the timeline of when sports activities can resume, as well as how those activities will need to be modified for health and safety."

Since the public school system provides many of the youth athletic opportunities in the state, school administrators are finding themselves in the middle of this debate. Natalie Hurd, with the Medford School District, says her district is obligated to follow guidance issued by the Oregon State Department of Education, and that movements like Let Them Play need to focus their mission on state agencies, and not local programs.

"The folks involved with that campaign understand the limitations that the district is under, what kind of risk the district would be in if we were to not follow guidance or even advocating for something that goes against the state health guidelines, Hurd says.”

Meanwhile, there has been some easing lately around group activities for youth. Sports programs are being allowed to practice and engage in conditioning exercises for their sport over the summer, with no guarantees that the competitions themselves will be allowed anytime soon.