If you ask Katy Gilchrist to describe what the game of football has meant to her three sons, especially when it comes to the relationship they’ve built with their coach over the years, there are no words that can do it justice.
“I could go on, and on, about Gary Houghton (Mason High School’s football coach) and what he’s done for my kids and helping to raise them,” said Gilchrist. “Literally raise them, and that’s one of my biggest fears. How is that going to change my kids’ lives? Not having that coach-player relationship. That one will make me cry.”
All summer athletes across the state, and here in Mid-Michigan, had certain health and safety protocols they needed to abide by in order to condition for a potential fall season. Now that that’s been taken away, Shana Badgley who also has two sons who play for Mason, took a deeper dive into the psychological affects. It is her line work.
“We have to do a positive reinforcement,” said Badgley. “The laws of behavior are that you have to give a reward to get continued behavior and so it’s been very hard to explain that to these kids.”
Badgley then went on to add, “I think what we’re seeing as a result of such a 180-shift, so dramatically and so quickly, is anxiety and depression. You know, young people are not wired to be isolated and we need socialization for brain development.”
In Linda Beachnau’s eyes, it’s the risk-reward ratio she’s looking at. Her son is a senior at DeWitt and from a statistical standpoint, she feels it’s safe for athletes to play.
“My son, every time he steps on the football field or straps on his skates and gets on the ice, has somewhere between 11-13 percent chance of a serious injury and that’s a far greater risk that I accept and I determine to be acceptable,” said Beachnau. “Then a minuscule, significantly less than one percent chance that my son will be infected with COVID.”
Beachnau, along with all the other parents who are a part of this movement believe they should be the ones to assess the level of risk. For their teams and their kids.
“I don’t think anybody that is a part of this movement is saying that every kid who plays football has to play,” Beachnau added.
“If they’re uncomfortable, because of the COVID virus, that is a decision for their parents and a decision for their district, but to have outside influences making those decisions for us is very frustrating because it doesn’t give us the ability to make those decisions.”