Op-Ed: COVID Isn’t Ruining The Athlete Experience, Non-Transparent Leadership Is

Enough is enough, stop blaming coronavirus. Yes, COVID has shut down our athletes legitimately at times, but many times have been by the decision-making of our district leaders that lack open transparency. It shouldn’t take media outlets dogging districts for answers to possibly obtain them, justification and reasoning should be mandated parts of the decision-making process. When we lack accountability of our leaders, they feel the freedom to make decisions without needing to justify to those that they serve, only defending themselves when the big bad media come knocking at their door. Whether its Portland, Salem, Woodburn, or other areas, our leadership has grown their level of unaccountability for decisions that directly affect our athletes.

What works for one school district doesn’t work for another, there is no blueprint that fits all situations. As varied of a range of responses we have seen, almost none of them have provided any explanation, rationale, or logic behind the decision, instead throwing us documents to sort through that “answer” all of the questions. In some cases, those decisions aren’t even sent to parents and instead spread through word of mouth from the students to the parents. Why? It helps them dodge accountability and having to answer to their constituents. Parents shouldn’t have to find out from their child or a media outlet about a decision that directly impacts them, they should be able to hear from the leaders themselves. As media, we are doing our duty of conveying important information, it’s just part of the day-to-day routine of covering sports. However, if our pressure is the only thing districts are fearful of, that’s not a good sign. Why can’t visitors have spectators? Why aren’t cheerleaders, student sections, bands, etc., allowed at games? These aren’t questions only media need to be asking them, these are questions that every parent should be asking if it bothers them that much. Not just with a social media post, but with an email or phone call directly to them.

I’m not a parent but will certainly be one day. I don’t understand what it is like having to deal with districts on behalf of my child, nor do I have a full institutional understanding of the inner workings of every district in the state. However, I can’t help but feel that parents can make a massive difference in this issue, specifically in the department of accountability. No media has the time to press for answers from every district in the state, but you as their constituents certainly can make a hard push and stance for accountability from the leaders that make decisions for your child. If you aren’t happy, make it very vocal and clear in the most civil, yet effective way possible. Demand accountability, transparency, and to be part of the process, it is their decision-making that ultimately impacts your athlete the most. I might report on that decision or be affected by it for one evening, but it is the day-to-day reality for you and your athlete. I will push for answers and demand accountability as a journalist, even acting upon your own attempts for it if they fail, but only with help from the parents and constituents in those districts can we make a real change in the transparency of our leaders and their decisions. Reject closed door decision-making, demand transparency from your leaders. Together, we can shape for a better future for every athlete, but ONLY together can we achieve it!

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