Officials Vigilant on Health Guidelines for Student-Athletes

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.
County 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.
“L.A. County’s reopening protocols are at least a small gesture toward returning to competition for youth sports, by allowing small groups (10 or fewer) to train and practice sport-specific skills in outdoor areas,” Brian James, assistant principal of athletics and activities at Burbank High School, said in an email. “However, participation by public schools is still guided by the L.A. County Office of Education and the local district. To date, we have not received permission from either entity to resume school-level athletic practices.

“Beginning in September, Burbank Parks and Recreation will begin offering after-school youth sport-specific classes to the general public, which high school athletes can participate in. With that said, the sooner we can get control of the COVID-19 spread, the sooner we will see normalized athletic activities.”
Steven Hubbell, John Burroughs High School assistant principal of athletics and activities, echoed James and said it’s difficult for the district to approve any practices when in-person instruction is not allowed.
“As much as I want them to play sports, if it’s not safe to be in the classroom, how can we say it’s safe to be out on the field?” he said. “ … We’re not just looking at the county [Department of] Public Health. We’re also looking at [the county Office of Education].”
LACOE published a public health update regarding athletics on July 30 that stated “while schools remain closed to in-person instruction, they may not be used for athletic programming at this time. Athletes can do conditioning and skill-building activities only on an individual basis or with members of their immediate household, not with cohorts of students from different households.”
Hubbell has received numerous messages from coaches about the possibility of returning to campus for practices and responds with discouraging news.
“It’s tough because my coaches always see the [guideline] that is least restrictive, but it’s just not how we work,” he said. “We don’t want any kids to contract this virus. It’s not about the percentages. It’s about the kids, and you don’t know how bad it’s going to be when someone gets it.”
Collegiate sports are also dealing with the effects of the coronavirus as the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mid-American conferences recently announced the suspension of fall athletics, changing the college football landscape.
“I always tell my coaches to look at all the professional teams and major colleges,” Hubbell said. “If they can get it under control, and they have something that we can mimic, then let’s go for it, but I haven’t seen anything that’s super-successful yet except for the NBA bubble. I don’t think we can ship everybody over to Orlando.” The league’s games are all taking place in that city.
Coaches throughout the state have adapted and used online tools to check in on their athletes. The Burbank High football team’s Twitter page posted that it had a successful virtual meeting in which nearly 100 athletes welcomed incoming freshmen football players. That interaction between students and coaches is what Hubbell, a former athlete, misses the most.
“I’m hoping it gets to a point where we can practice,” he said. “Of course, I want games, but it’s not just about that. Our coaches are positive role models, and the kids learn hard work and what it takes to be successful from them. We have a phenomenal coaching staff, and other schools have the same. We’re all missing it. … As much as I want to get back out there, I want to do it in a safe manner.”

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