JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As the new school year is just days away for some First Coast schools, students and teachers have been thinking about virtual school or going back to the classroom -- not necessarily the football field or locker room.
Gov. Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion regarding the importance of youth sports during COVID-19 at the University of North Florida Arena in Jacksonville on Thursday.
DeSantis said this fall, children need sports now more than ever because the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated and put a mental strain on them.
“Understanding discipline, understanding hard work, the mentorship that you get from coaches is really, really important to the development of our young people," he explained.
DeSantis was joined by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and some coaches from around the state who agree and say it’s also critical to have boys and girls sports available to seniors who are thinking about life after high school and want to earn college scholarships.
“There’s a lot of push back trying to go against us starting back," Suwannee High School football head coach Kyler Hall said.
Suwannee High School starts on Monday, and Hall said his team is set to start practice on Aug. 24.
“Our kids need that. Me as a coach, I plan on coaching for a long time, so whether it’s this year or next – sports is going to come back. But for these kids -- these seniors -- this is it," Hall added. “Yes, there’s a lot of question marks, there’s a lot of fear. We don’t have all the answers, but we know it’s not just sitting around – not doing anything structured.”
The coaches said their student-athletes are going to be working out and playing on their own anyway.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, also a part of the roundtable discussion, said one of his daughters has continued ballet through the summer and his son just started football camp.
“We got to learn to live with this in a safe way. It’s incumbent upon us adults to give parents and kids this choice," Curry said.
DeSantis reminds parents that letting your children participate in sports this school year is a choice -- as is going back to the brick-and-mortar setting for academics.
The governor didn’t speak on if the state will be assisting athletic departments with safety resources or what specific policies teams should have in place to keep players healthy.