An Open Letter to the Colorado High School Football Community

Dear Colorado High School Football Community (Players, Coaches, Staff, Cheerleaders, Managers, Fans, School Personnel, Media, Government Officials, CHSAA Officials/Board and the families of all involved),

As I write this, the decision was made to keep the 2020-2021 adjusted athletic CHSAA schedule that was voted on August 4th.  I support this decision. 

I love football.  I love coaching football.  I love the life lessons the game teaches all of us and what it instills into everyone associated with a football program.  There are things to learn when situations are at their best, like a huge upset victory or a kid’s first touchdown, and even more to learn when things aren’t going as planned, such as in current times.  This is devastating news for our football community, especially the players, but one that had to be made.  It is truly unfortunate and a hard reality in which we all will have to deal with and hopefully learn from. 

We, as coaches, have an obligation, first and foremost, to keep our players safe.  That ranges from teaching proper tackling technique to communicating with them now.  Whether we like to admit it or not, our country is in the midst of a global pandemic, which has directly or indirectly affected each and every one of us.  COVID has infected over 6 million Americans and killed more than 190,000 of us.  These are not just numbers, they are people, with huge impacts not just on the individuals affected, but their family and their community. 

It must be communicated that we have to be part of the solution and not continue to contribute to the problem.  These are not normal times and we can’t simply ignore a public health crisis.  I recently tried to convey to my team the life lesson that sometimes a collective sacrifice (us not playing games this fall) may need to be put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of not only them, but their family and their community.  I say this knowing that their 16 year-old self may not understand, but that hopefully they come back to the school at 25 and say, “Yeah, I understand what you said.  They made the right call.  They were looking out for us.”      

I believe that history will judge us all on what we did to help one another during the pandemic and what we did to keep one another safe.  It is in this statement that I support and applaud the work of Governor Polis, his COVID Response Team, CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green, CHSAA officials, and the CHSAA Board for their leadership in making this difficult decision.  This is the leadership that we need, for it continues to look out for the safety of the citizens of Colorado, especially the many people involved in a football season, and gives us the chance for a full season in the spring. 

Leadership matters and either has incredible reward or dire consequences.  We must objectively realize that failure to lead at the federal level on this issue has caused a variety of consequences, with one, of many, being the delay of our football season to the spring.  When there is no federal response to a federal problem, we get into the predicament we currently are in, as each state is forced to make their own plans and guidelines to try to rectify the crisis.  It did not have to be this bad, yet it is.  The current federal administration called the crisis a hoax and continually downplayed the seriousness of the issue, resulting in the escalation of cases, deaths and leading to an inability to contain the virus.  This began in March.  We are now in September.  Our country did not do enough to enable us to play.  That is a harsh, yet true, realization.  Due to this, our state officials are forced to make these tough decisions.  It is unwarranted, in my opinion, to fault them for trying to keep everyone safe and doing what is right to not continue the spread or potential outbreak of the virus.   

It did not have to come to this, but here we are.  Now, what do we do?  We take care of one another.  We look to see how we can help.  We come together and do everything in our power to prepare for February 22, 2021 and the start of our season.  We continue to encourage people to wear masks, social distance, wash their hands and make good decisions for our collective well-being and to enable us to play in February.  If not, we’ll be at the same crossroads again.  We also need to advocate for ourselves and our players, especially when it comes to testing.  What safety measures do we want/need to have in place to be safe in February?  We also must come to terms that we are not alone in our sacrifice and that many have experienced far greater consequences due to this crisis. We are not alone in our hurt and disappointment and need to communicate with our players proper, positive ways to process this decision.

It starts now.  We must move forward, be productive and protect each other.  It’s on all of us now. I wish everyone the very best.

Take care out there,

Nels Thoreson
Justice High School
Language Arts Teacher/Athletic Director/Head Football Coach/Title IX Coordinator/Assistant Registrar/After-School Director/Homework Club Director/Equity Coordinator/Food Services    

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