Car horns blared and balloons bobbled in a light breeze on Friday, January 15 when several dozen young athletes, their coaches and parents participated in a statewide “Let Them Play, California,” rally, which urged state officials to allow for youth sports to begin immediately.
Locally, the event was organized by Aly Pernecky, Erika Foy and Angela Buchanan and held at Blair High School at the corner of Glenarm St. and Marengo Ave.
“Public health is about everyone,” said Foy. “The public policy to manage the pandemic should not burden one group over the other. Our kids are carrying the burden more than they should and their developmental process is being deeply affected by the shutdowns with no school or sports. It is important our public officials listen to the community it is representing and to those who are living with the consequences of these policy decisions.”
Though Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement that lifted the state’s stay-at-home orders provided optimism, participants in extracurricular activities and their family members have been down the road of high hopes before, only to confront disappointment.
Most schools closed in March and suspended all activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last July 20, the California Interscholastic Federation — the state’s governing body for high school athletics — announced an updated schedule for the 2020-21 school year that kept all previous sports but employs a two-season format that was scheduled to begin in December. The CIF’s new calendar postponed the beginning of the traditional fall season to that month, with several sports being shuffled between seasons. The last day for all other rescheduled fall sports fell sometime between March 20 and April 17. Winter sports, such as basketball, were woven into spring sports, with regional or state playoffs ending June 19. The decision to close down athletics earlier this month dealt a severe blow to that schedule.
In October, most area athletes began socially distanced training sessions in swimming, water polo, cross country, track and field, baseball, basketball, football and volleyball, all of which have been suspended until at least Feb. 1 at the recommendation of the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
“They just want to play,” said Steve Pinkston, a La Cañada coach with more than 30 years of experience. “If we can play one game we should play that game. If they really would take a look and have us do the things that the other 40 states have done. The coaches and the kids are willing to do it. Florida and Texas have completed their seasons and it is difficult for these kids and coaches who don’t understand why we aren’t able to give it a try. Everyone else across the country had a chance. It’s just my hope that we will have a chance to play.”
“Our kids being locked down since March of last year has been an absolute tragedy and nightmare,” said Dan Giddings, a San Marino resident and father of three. “According to the Wall Street Journal, there has been no evidence that COVID-19 spreads during competition. We have seen this with pro sports and across the nation as our states are allowing youth and high school athletes to play.”
“The science regarding spreading in schools has evolved while our policies of keeping schools and organized sports closed haven’t,” she said. “Countless studies from the CDC, the Academy of Pediatrics, prestigious universities like John’s Hopkins, Brown and Duke have proven kids do not spread the virus to adults, including to teachers. We can no longer say these current closures are helping curb the spread. They clearly aren’t, as California has not had children on campuses for nearly a year.”