Maine Principals’ Association should not consider Sunday athletic competition

In October, the Maine Principals’ Association revealed it is “discussing” the possibility of allowing athletic competitions to be held on Sundays.

Such a move would be a mistake, both in principle and practice.

The organization has opened to door to the concept by introducing the idea of only playing postponed playoff games on Sundays, if needed.

MPA Executive Director Dick Durost was quick to point out there is no official proposal in place to pursue Sunday play, but the fact it is being talked about is troubling.

Proponents will argue having a makeup game on a Sunday would potentially make better fields or facilities available for a contest while enabling parents, friends and fans to more conveniently attend a game they might have missed if it were played on a weekday.

That rationale overlooks the most important part of the equation — the well-being of high school student-athletes.

Athletes already face tremendous demands on their time and energies. A large number of athletes play a different sport during the fall, winter and spring seasons at school, then spend much of their summer involved in one or more of those activities.

The continued proliferation of AAU basketball, travel soccer and ice hockey, fall baseball and spring field hockey competition means many young people are playing almost year-round. And there is pressure to do so, since those who don’t often are viewed as not being committed.

Playing on Sundays also presents a legitimate religious conflict for those Christians who consider it a day of worship and rest.

That is why it is so important for the MPA to say no to Sunday competition.

Everyone needs and deserves a little down time. High school athletes spend six hours a day in class Monday through Friday, then have two-plus hours of practices or games five or six days a week. That doesn’t even take into consideration time spent on the bus for road games, which can be significant.

Upon their return home, students still must make time for homework and studying for tests.

Athletes already often give up their Saturdays for games or practices. That leaves only Sunday as a legitimate day to rest, relax, study or spend quality time with their families and friends.

Coaches and staff members, many of whom are teachers or hold full-time jobs outside the school setting, also would be sacrificing their own time to show up for a Sunday competition.

Undoubtedly, it will be argued that Sunday makeup games would be infrequent, resulting only from circumstances where a suitable alternative cannot be found. Unfortunately, once the door has been opened, it could well lead to an expanded policy for Sunday competitions (see Massachusetts and Vermont).

What is at stake is the principle of preserving a day for student-athletes on which they have no responsibilities to their school teams. High school athletes, coaches, administrators, staff members and game officials deserve a day they can truly call their own.

Pete Warner

About Pete Warner

Pete is a Bangor native who graduated from Bangor High School, Class of 1980. He earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He has been a full-time member of the Bangor Daily News Sports staff since 1984. Pete lives in Bangor with his wife of 35 years, Annia. They have two adult sons, Will and Paul. Pete is fluent in Spanish and enjoys visiting his in-laws and friends in Costa Rica. His hobbies including hunting, fishing and listening to jazz.