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Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Return of sports is a game changer

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hours of painful concern for a lot of Islanders, as we worry over the health of ourselves and our family, the vulnerable among us and those already impacted by the virus.

One group who have suffered greatly because of the coronavirus is our youth, both educationally and socially.

Think for a moment about how much our students have lost. They had to navigate the challenges of moving to virtual learning last spring. They missed out on a full-scale graduation, award ceremonies and proms.

Many of our younger students fell behind in key learning areas like reading and early math. It’s almost impossible to imagine how young students from low-income families, or ones where both parents are out of the house each day, have been getting by at all.

Scholastic sports are a critical part of the high school experience for reasons that go far beyond the final score. The students who participate learn to make healthy decisions, acquire important communication and leadership skills, work together for common goals, which all builds confidence and helps their academic performances.

While we agree school sports were properly shelved this past year, it is also very much the time for them to resume — provided it is done responsibly.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said last week that a decision to allow “high-risk” —  for catching the virus — sports will be played over the final months of the school year.

Kids whose passion for competition and teamwork, which were derailed for much of the time they have left in school, are given a reprieve. These are students who will now be more active and have a renewed sense of purpose.

With proper guidelines in place, we’re pleased that a school sports season that once seemed far-fetched is about to become a reality.

We wish every one of our local student-athletes good health and success in the gyms and on the playing fields in the weeks ahead. You’ve faced challenges no generation before you has had to endure. May each point scored taste even sweeter.