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Guest commentary

Not time to play: Open letter to Camden Hills student-athletes from former Windjammer

High school, college running standout's thoughts on subject of playing sports during a pandemic
By Augusta Stockman | Sep 02, 2020
Courtesy of: Augusta Stockman Augusta Stockman.

Poughkeepsie, N.Y. — To current Camden-Rockport student-athletes and their loved ones:

I get it. I hear you. I see you. I feel your pain; for the first time since 2012, this fall I will not toe the line at a cross-country meet and compete in the sport that I love. I am a sophomore at Vassar College and former Camden Hills student-athlete. As I follow local news from my dorm here in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where our whole campus is essentially on lockdown until we clear phase one of quarantine, I wanted to offer my view and express my frustration at the way the conversation around athletics is playing out in the Midcoast.

I want to underscore at the onset that no one is trying to minimize the significance or experience of sport. The benefits, as many have noted in posts and comments, go far beyond the classroom and constitute lifelong lessons in teamwork, communication, perseverance, and integrity. I could offer a dozen personal anecdotes in support of such takeaways, but I know no one reading this needs to be convinced. However, let us be clear that these are incentives to participate in athletics; they are not grounds to compromise the health and safety of a larger community in a global pandemic.

Admittedly, it has taken me some time to accept that. At the start of summer, coming off a lonely virtual track season and heading into several more months of solo training for a fall that was still uncertain, I so desperately wanted stability. I wanted a guarantee that the next time I stepped foot on campus, I could hug my teammates and regain some sense of normalcy. That is a very natural and very human desire, and there is no shame in wanting this whole chapter of our lives to be over.

We must recognize, however, that no amount of wishing or willing will actually make this fall normal. It would be foolish to think so against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just look at local businesses that now monitor store capacity, at restaurants that have adapted to takeout models, at entire streets that have shifted to accommodate additional outdoor seating. Talk to teachers, who will work in close quarters with so many student-athletes in the coming weeks, about their preparation for this school year. Look around your house, your car, your workspace; how many bottles of hand sanitizer, how many masks do you see? None of this is normal (and because I have seen this concern raised a lot: this is universally recognized! No college recruiter will fault anyone for a blank fall 2020 record, and if they do, that is not a place you want to be).

I know the case numbers there are low; I keep up with those statistics because Camden is my home (and because Dr. Nirav Shah is a legend). I know younger people are generally less susceptible to the effects of COVID-19. I know there is already inherent risk in sport; walking that line is not only part of the learning process but also what makes sport so thrilling for athletes and fans alike.

However, let us again be clear that the risk of injury is not the same as risk of infection in a global pandemic.

I ask that in this moment, you put the well-being of your community above your love of sport. Instead of comparing our district’s decision to the rest of the state, please recognize the privilege you have in even being able to return to in-person learning. Millions of students across the country did not get that choice (or have since had that choice revoked following outbreaks linked to activities including sports).

Perhaps most of all, know that just because this fall cannot be normal does ​not​ mean it cannot be fulfilling for those of us involved in athletics. Nothing can replace a typical season, of course, but I hope you can find solace as I have in the excitement and novelty of this moment. If there has ever been a time to apply those lessons learned in sport to real life, this is it. How will you use your creativity, your compassion, your work ethic to find new ways to engage with teammates and push yourself physically? How will you rise to this challenge?


Augusta Stockman, CHRHS Class of 2019.

Augusta Stockman, 20, is a sophomore at Vassar College studying international relations, among other things (still undeclared). She runs cross country and track and field and graduated from Camden Hills Regional High School in 2019.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: Carol W Bachofner | Sep 04, 2020 08:36

Well stated, filled with clear thinking and calm reserve. This rings true from every line.

Posted by: Janice Abendroth | Sep 03, 2020 20:27

Amen to that!

Posted by: Bridget & Richard Qualey/Stetson | Sep 03, 2020 11:25

Thanks for a well considered commentary of local high school sports, Augusta. And congrats to AD Jeff Hart and the local school admin for making a clear decision about having no competition for the fall term. (I hear that Ellsworth has joined the fall sports hiatus as of this morning as well.) It is a serious time with serious health consequences. It is time to care for others and the larger community as you say. Amen to that.

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