A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jesse Brewer: Bureaucratic executive mandates are putting our kids’ mental health in jeopardy

It seems more and more things are being taken away from our kids due to the COVID-19 pandemic. First it was their school, switching them from in person to online, then it was their summer camps and now youth sports are under attack as we speak.

In Northern Kentucky, the NKYFL (Northern Kentucky Youth Football League) canceled it is 2020 season, and many more around the state are following suit. I’m not trying to downplay the pandemic and whether it has long term effects or not; however, I do know that if we keep putting our kids’ mental health in jeopardy that the long-term effects on them could be damaging.

Youth sports plays a big role in a child’s development and overall foundation into becoming an adult. It teaches them teamwork, how to overcome adversity and builds self-confidence. Studies show that kids that engage in youth sports are more likely to succeed in school, go to college, go on to become business and or political leaders and are more likely to contribute back to their community through social and charitable programs.

Additionally, studies also show that kids who do not engage in youth sports are more likely abuse drugs and alcohol, have discipline problems in school, skip classes and enjoy less success as an adult. Now I understand that this is not every kid and these studies were conducted over a multiple years’ time frame on national platforms; however, I think we can all agree that allowing kids to engage in youth sports far outweighs the benefits of them not participating.

Without being able to play sports our kids are left with minimal options to occupy their time, many of which are counter productive in their development. Many kids will spend a lot of their downtime, that would have been utilized in playing sports, online playing video games.

Studies show that kids that play too many video games during their developmental years are more likely to show signs of depression, lack of interest within person activities and are at a disadvantage within person social skills. All things that we do not want for our children.

Our children need to be back in school and be able to play their sports. Their mental health is at stake and each day that goes by that they are restricted from participation is a day that may make it harder for them to want to go back when that time comes.

At this point many parents understand the risks involved with the virus and it is time for the parents to be allowed to make the decisions for their children, and not a bureaucratic executive mandate that is based on data that may not be 100 percent reliable.

It is time to consider the long-term mental health effects on our kids and lift these restrictions that are prohibiting them from playing the games that teach them so much that they love.

Jesse Brewer
Boone County Commissioner

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  1. D. Dressman says:

    If you don’t like the rules just say so, I doubt not playing sports will cause the children any mental harm
    As someone who was a child during WW2, and remembers the rationing, etc, I don’t think our mental health was affected.
    I do remember the virus of the time, Polio, killing a close childhood friend.
    I do remember the photos of children in iron lungs.
    That, I do remember, not the loss of any sports.

  2. Ted Weil says:

    Mr. Brewer makes some valid points and his enthusiasm for the benefits of youth sports are important to understand. I don’t disagree at all with the benefit and need for youth activities including sports, the arts, social activities, etc…these are all important for kids (and indeed, adults).

    However, Mr. Brewer’s ultimate conclusion that we should to leave this decision in the hands of parents is flawed.

    It is truly a tragedy that in the U.S., a country that should have risen to this challenge and demonstrated our ability to be a global leader, we have lagged painfully behind all other wealthy, developed nations in our efforts to combat the pandemic. It is the very fact that we have relied on individuals to make sound, safe choices that we are still seeing thousands of new cases and deaths every day. Many of these individuals are parents and they have opted for personal convenience or political nonsense over simple safety and concern for the well-being of others.

    The plain fact is that leaving the choice in the hands of individuals (even parents) has failed dismally. Governor Beshear and many other responsible leaders have done their jobs in picking up the mantle of public safety and making hard, often unpopular decisions to keep our children, elderly and all citizens safe.

    Other countries are able to safely send their children to school and watch them participate in sports and all the other activities that are so important. We have not yet reached that point.

    While Mr. Brewer’s points about mental health and development bear serious discussion, let me pose an extreme, but very real risk to consider: While missing out on sports for a year could have an impact on development, how much more devastated would any child be if he or she realized he contracted the virus at school or on the sports field, brought it home unknowingly and spread it to a parent or grandparent who was not able to survive the infection? This risk is still far too great in a country that has failed to control the spread of COVID-19.

    The “bureaucrats,” are unfortunately making hard, often unpopular decisions because far too many of us have failed to put the safety of others above the comfort or in some cases belligerence, of ourselves.

  3. Jerry Smith says:

    Spot-on, Mr. Brewer. Let parents make decisions for their children, any other way makes the government too powerful and grants them too much control over our lives. Ted Weil, some may worship the god of “safety,” but life isn’t safe. Continuing to cower in our basements while the economy nosedives and Andy Beshear smiles into the camera is not working either. Let’s live life again and take our chances.

    • Kevin LeMaster says:

      At one point, making personal sacrifices for the good of the country was considered “patriotic”. It’s sad to see that that kind of thinking has been left by the wayside and that now it’s “every man for himself”. If World War II were to happen now, we’d be screwed. Nobody is “cowering in basements” but plenty of people are concerned. There is a difference.

  4. Mr. Brewer, I am concerned about the accuracy of the statement “bureaucratic executive mandate that is based on data that may not be 100 percent reliable.” I can assure you that Governor Beshear has unique access to reliable, accurate data from a variety of national and global sources (notwithstanding journalists, news outlets, governments, and even individuals around the world)—unlike many Kentuckians who rely upon the propaganda of Fox/Breitbart/Limbaugh, which tells them that all of the other news outlets are unreliable. As a freelance writer, I can say with confidence that the facts support the idea that the United States has FAILED in its coronavirus response: We rank 11th in both per capita cases and deaths, among 215 countries and territories ranked high to low. That’s NOT an opinion. But here’s one:

    I remember my grandparents talking about the Depression and WWII, and I lived through 9/11 with a young child in tow. The difference between then and now? Selfishness. Then, we pulled together as a country, we grieved and prayed together, and we set aside our own wants and needs to help others, for the good of our country. People came from all around the country to help New Yorkers struggling with the horrific aftereffects of 9/11. And again, healthcare workers came to help NYC in the spring during this pandemic.

    Mr. Brewer, you may gain insight from the book “The Day the World Came to Town,” about the airplanes heading toward the U.S. on September 11, 2001, which were diverted to Newfoundland, Canada. There, passengers experienced compassion, selflessness, generosity, hard work, community.

    As an educator and child development expert, I would say that Yes, there are many things important to our kids’ development and mental health that they are missing during this pandemic, including sports and performing arts and extracurriculars. But here’s what else is important for their development:
    • Learning what it means to live in a society, to have a social contract wherein they give up certain individual rights for the government’s protection, like from a global health emergency; that government has a constitutional duty to protect its citizenry.
    • Learning the value of community service and charity.
    • Learning that true patriotism is giving up some personal freedom in order to protect fellow countrymen.
    • Learning how to say NO to ourselves, that sometimes we don’t get our way, we have to make sacrifices and live with disappointment.
    • Learning to be resilient in the face of hardships.

    And what responsibility do we adults have to our young people, as role models for all of these characteristics?

    In my mind, the big picture is that, if we pulled together and wore masks to slow the coronavirus spread for the good of our community, then we could more quickly get our kids back to their extracurriculars.

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