Amid Shutdown, LCHS Athletes Stay Sharp for Eventual Action

As professional leagues manage their seasons amid a pandemic, youth and high school sports teams have remained sidelined due to restrictions from the state and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Local health officials updated their Reopening Protocol for Youth Sports Leagues order last week, allowing players to train outside as long as there is 6 feet of separation among them, appropriate face coverings are worn by everyone and a screening is conducted prior to any activity.
However, no tournaments or any kind of competition are permitted, and contact drills also are prohibited.
Coaches and players are looking for any opportunity to get back on the field for in-person training but local administrators still cannot give them the green light.
“Nothing has really changed about in-person contact with the kids,” said first-year La Cañada High School Athletic Director Carrie Saks. “Everything has to be virtual. … We want to be out there as much as the kids do.
“It’s hard for parents and students too because they’re disappointed when we tell them that. Club teams are running on a different set of rules than we are. We are still considered as a public school and school facilities are not open. … We are doing our best to follow the rules. Club teams are practicing and it’s making it hard for us because we have a lot of disappointed kids thinking things are opening up when we can’t.”
The athletics department continues to work on a practice schedule for a seamless transition into the La Cañada Unified School District’s second phase, which would allow students on campus on a limited basis.
“We are studying all the guidelines and trying to get personal protective equipment in place that we need,” Saks said. “There’s lots of juggling [of schedules for use of] our facilities, and we need to make sure we have that schedule in place and have it all figured out so we’re ready.”
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette echoed Saks, saying staff members are in contact with county officials for any updates regarding the use of campus facilities.
“We recognize that for many of our students, sports is their motivation for academics,” she said. “We’ve missed that and have tried to keep our students engaged. Coaches have been great about keeping that team enthusiasm up. … High school fields haven’t been opened, but we’re monitoring that.
“We want our sports teams back and to be able to operate business as usual but can’t until we’re given the green light by the county.”
Coaches have been hard at work off site to keep their players training and motivated via Zoom.
“We stressed to coaches to keep in contact with kids because they need us right now and we need them,” Saks said. “They have done a really good job about that, especially our cheer and football coaches.”
LCHS head football coach Jason Sarceda has gone to great lengths to keep his players’ morale up. Luckily for him, the athletes have been motivated.
“Coming out of last season, we were determined to get better and our guys were working really hard, lifting in the weight room and making big improvements. Then we had COVID-19 hit,” he said. “We had to shut down because the school shut down. We took it virtual, and our leadership council and other leaders helped create [assignments via] Zoom and [Google] Classroom. We pretty much kept our same schedule.”
The Spartans didn’t miss a beat during the summer and adapted to training amid a pandemic. The coaching staff uses the virtual gatherings to build camaraderie.
“What we try to do with football is just loosen up, and we want it to be fun,” Sarceda said. “The whole program is about creating a little space. They’re online enough, and we don’t want to have to focus too much on working. We just want to have a good time and get up and exercise.”
Sarceda and his coaches are ready to get on the field when permitted. They devised a system that would have athletes train in small groups and follow all health guidelines.
“We’re just waiting for our school to give us direction and allow us to train as a unit,” he said. “I know the county released some guidelines, and we’ve been set since June on how we would do social distancing in a group setting. We would have 10 athletes at a time, but coming in and out of different entrances. There would be no interaction in the locker room.
“We’re just waiting for our turn to go out there and hoping for the best.”

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