Winter athletic activities in Rockingham County Public Schools are slated to begin Monday. As we approach that date, the number of COVID-19 cases in our area and across the country has risen dramatically. The situation is serious enough that our county school administration has responded with a number of safety measures in an effort to protect our students. As a result, our student-athletes will be limited to no-contact practices and will not be allowed to play any contests until the coronavirus numbers come down to a level that is deemed safe for all concerned.

Over the past several months, our players have worked extremely hard under very difficult circumstances to prepare for the upcoming season. While it hasn’t always been easy, they have been very diligent in adhering to the COVID-19 mitigation strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health. These kids have responded to this crisis with a resilience and determination that is truly remarkable. They deserve a chance to play this year.

For that to happen, it is up to every one of us in this community.

There are simple, but effective actions we can all take. In public, please wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. In addition, please practice social distancing and wash your hands often. Stay home if you're sick and limit your contact with others whenever possible. As the Christmas holidays approach, please consider limiting or avoiding holiday parties and social gatherings. And I ask that you encourage your friends, family and co-workers to adopt these same strategies. These actions won't eliminate the virus, but it will help drive the case numbers down to a level that is safer for our kids. In turn, this will allow them to participate in the athletic, fine arts and academic activities that are so vital to the development of our young people.

I know that many of you in our community are already doing your part. I’m also aware that there has been significant resistance to the mitigation strategies. If you have doubts about the severity of the virus or have ignored the mitigation strategies, I ask you to please put those feelings aside for the benefit of our children.

In our program we often use the slogan WE > ME, which indicates that we emphasize the needs of the team as a whole instead of focusing on individual interests.

In that spirit, I ask that all of you focus on the greater good of our community by doing your part. Earlier this year our area responded to the crisis in such a positive manner that it caused case numbers to drop significantly. So, we’ve done it before and we can do it again. Battling this virus, like basketball, takes teamwork. If we all pull together, we can give our local student-athletes a tremendous gift this Christmas — a season to remember.

Rob Lovell is the girls basketball coach at Turner Ashby High School.

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