Youth sports advocates’ message to governor: ‘Let them play’

Youth sports advocates say shutting down sports businesses is hurting young athletes.

They contend the isolation is causing suicide, drug abuse and mental illness in the families of kids who are not being allowed to play sports.

Those advocates say they can keep young athletes safe because they’ve already done it.

This 12,000 foot space belongs to the Zenith West gym in Tacoma, room enough, says its owner, to keep the gymnasts apart. And that is just the start of the protocols they have put in place here to keep them safe.

“This is a mess up here,” said Lacey Kuckelman. “But it shows that when people come in, they have to hand sanitize, take their temperature and answer the survey questions.”

Kuckelman says before any young gymnast enters the Zenith West gym she opened just 17 months ago, they have to show they are not sick.

“And we actually got rid of all of our parent seating,” she said, pointing out the protocols she established after the Governor’s first shutdown.

But even after doing that, they were shut down a second time. And she believes it is hurting the very people they are meant to protect.

“I believe that the youth need to get physical fitness back in order to release the negative toxins, release the negative energy, increase the endorphins,” she said.

Kuckelman took that message to this rally organized by the Washington State Sports Alliance.

“Their mental health depends on us reopening,” she told the group assembled outside the ShoWare Center in Kent.

They included coaches, athletes, parents, gym owners, and a former professional baseball player.

“We don’t want your money, Washington,” thundered Jim Parque, a former Major League Baseball player who spent some time in the Mariner’s Minor Leagues. “We don’t want any aid. We just want to be open so we can help these kids, help them grow. That’s it. That’s all we’re looking for.”

Kuckelman was asked if they can reopen safely.

“Yes, we’ve actually proven that we can,” she says. “We have had zero COVID cases in here thus far.”

Kuckelman says they believe the Governor’s order represents a double standard.

“It is unfortunate to see that the Seahawks can play and college athletes can practice,” she says. “It seems like a bit of a money game.”

Just about everyone we talked to said the shutdown could spell the end of their businesses and leave young athletes in the lurch.

They say it is imperative that the Governor hears their message for the sake of young athletes who depend on places like this to thrive.