MILLTOWN, NJ - As of Saturday, December 5, pools, indoor basketball courts and ice rinks will be empty once again because of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's latest Executive Order halting all indoor youth and high school indoor sports because of the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state. The ban is in effect through January 2. Milltown teenage Florisel Velez was devastated by the news she and her sister would not be able to train and swim for their Riptide swim team for at least a month.

Velez, like many youth and high school athletes, says in her letter to the governor that sports provides an oasis and a respite for kids in today's unprecedented times. The teen attends virtual school, as a large number of Garden State students do, and discusses the health and mental benefits of being able to practice and compete in a world that is not normal. She also points out in her PS that her Riptide team follows the coronavirus guidelines put in place by the state and the CDC.

Velez's letter to the governor reads as follows:

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Dear Governor Murphy,

As once said in a Chinese proverb “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” During this hectic, troublesome, and emotionally taxing year, many have learned to adapt to the conditions that we currently face. Though many have not been able to adapt, there are some that are able to uphold guidelines while continuing with their program.My name is Florisel Velez I’m fourteen years old and I’m writing from Milltown NJ. Two months ago me and my sister had started swimming for the NJ Riptide swim team. We meet four times a week at the indoor pool at the YMCA.  I cannot speak for everyone in the swim world, but  I can confidently say that everyone on the team and in the building adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. At the door, temperatures are checked and masks are worn anytime we are outside the pool. Coaches are watchful and are effective in upholding the guidelines. During our time in practice we are also required to bring our own equipment.  In addition to this, not a single swimmer or member of the swim team organization has become ill with COVID-19. Though I had only started on the swim team two months ago I had grown a strong love for the sport. Swim was my escape from the chaos that the world  surrounded me in (regarding current worldly events). Finding out that it had been snatched from under me like everything else this year, I was devastated and I began to weep. 

Presently it is clear that all indoor youth sports have been suspended. Some believe that all indoor youth sports should have been suspended, while others believe that it should not have. No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended for the four following reasons. It seems that each sport has not been individually evaluated, sports can bring back a sense of normalcy, not being able to practice and train can effect one’s sports career, and a lack of exercise can effect the well-being of your mental health. 

 No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended because it seems that each sport has not been individually evaluated. While it is understood that there are many contact youth sports that can contribute to the number of those infected by coronavirus, that is not the case for all. Sports such as swimming, tennis, diving, and gymnastics are examples of such. These are also all examples are individual competition sports. Although you may be on a team, you are competing individually, which means you are not physically interacting with other individuals. These sports obey government restrictions such as social distancing.  Many sports teams also consist of peers that are in middle and high school. These students are old enough to understand the restrictions put in place, and follow them. There are also coaches and other staff members that are there who can help enforce these rules. 

No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended because sports can bring back a sense of normalcy.  As we all are well aware of , the year 2020 has been a burdensome year for everyone. We have been stuck inside for what seems  like an eternity,  we have complied with the rules laid at our feet, and we avoided any contact with the people we love. But things have started to look up, we are able to go out again, and enjoy the things that we love. For many that thing is sports. At the end of the day we want to be safe, but we should still be able to enjoy our lives and live them to the fullest. Kids still want to be kids! We want to interact with others, we want to learn and master new things, and have fun while doing it! Sports give us all of that.  Sports make this year a little easier to handle. 

No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended because there are many kids who are training and practicing for a career in sports. Terminating youth sports can have a devastating impact on those training to become a professional athlete. Professional sports organizations such as the NFL are still very much in effect, busy with games and practices; but have you considered the teens and young adults training for such opportunities? There are countless children whose dreams consist of going pro one day. Shutting down youth indoor sports is taking away their ability to work to attain their most prized desire.  Closing indoor facilities also makes it harder on families, especially during this time when many parents are losing jobs and businesses. To allow their child to continue excelling in their sport they may have to consider personal trainers and additional training equipment. This can put a strain on the wallets of families who are struggling during this time. If for any reason a child was unable to practice for their sport, going back after the suspension can be difficult for them. Not having access to the proper training equipment/facilities will make it hard or even make them unable to stay fit and active in their sport. Resuming practice after a long hiatus can make them more prone to injury. Regular conditioning is important while playing sports. If a child should become injured it could harm their chances of going professional. 

No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended because a lack of exercise can effect your mental health. According to the CDC  “7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. ” During the entire year of 2020 we see that depression, anxiety, and suicidal rates have skyrocketed. You might be thinking “well what does that have to do with sports?” or “ that’s extreme”, but studies have shown that sports can actually help reduce depression and anxiety. According to Mayo Clinic it releases ‘feel good’ endorphins “that can enhance your sense of well-being” It also states that it takes your mind off of worries, helps you secure confidence, allows more social interaction, and permits healthy copping. 

On the contrary there are some who believe that all indoor youth sports should be suspended. Yes, all indoor youth sports should be suspended for these two reasons, children/teens could ignore government guidelines, and sports are an unnecessary activity to allow during this time. 

Yes, all indoor youth sports should be suspended because children/teens could ignore government guidelines. Although many are adhering to CDC and government guidelines many continue to ignore them. As a result, many people can become infected with COVID-19. Also, increasing the risk of death tolls rising. This reason is inadequate because it is not rational to punish everyone because some chose not to follow the rules. For example, would it be reasonable to close all stores to the public because one person made a bad choice and chose to shoplift?

Yes, all indoor youth sports should be suspended because sports is an unnecessary activity to allow during this time. During this hard time in the world we should focus on the health and safety of the citizens overall. Limiting ‘nonessential’ activity, such as youth sports could help slow the number of COVID-19 cases. This could also help reduce the number of loved one’s lost during this time. This reason is inadequate because if this were true, organizations such as the NFL and other sports teams would be suspended due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases among them. 

No, all indoor youth sports should not be suspended because it seems that each sport has not been individually evaluated, sports can bring back a sense of normalcy, not being able to practice and train can effect one’s sports career, and a lack of exercise can effect the well-being of your mental health. This matters to children who love sports because this can directly affect their metal health, their physical state, and their hope for the future.

With hope that we can bring back youth sports,

Florisel Velez

P.S.  I know you might not be able to bring back all indoor youth sports, but I hope that you will seriously consider and take into consideration all the points that I have presented. If you could at the very least allow swim teams to continue to practice indoors,that would be greatly appreciated! Again, the Riptide NJ swim team (that I am apart of) completely follows CDC and NJ state government guidelines. They have set a maximum capacity for the pool area, masks are worn at all times when outside of the pool, temperatures along with wellness check health questions are asked/checked upon arrival. They also do there very best to maintain social distancing between swimmers in their lanes. As soon as swim is over swimmers are asked to dry off get dressed and leave immediately. I hope to hear from you soon!