November 19, 2020

Photo by Christina Kong

As we approach another spike in Covid-19 cases country wide, the big question for anyone involved in High School sports is, when can we play here in California.  Currently 47 states are playing at the youth level despite the current pandemic but not us.   Is this the right decision?  Are we doing the kids affected by this lockdown more harm than good?

The current restrictions here in Sonoma County have forced some youth teams to travel out of state in order to participate in competitions and tournaments.  Currently the CDC does not restrict these competitions, as long as certain guidelines are met.  The CDC does say however that teams traveling from different geographic areas present the highest risk and suggests games featuring teams from a localized area, town or community is the best practice.

So, wouldn’t it make more sense to allow local competitions and restrict interstate travel for games and tournaments?

For a while, back in September, baseball scrimmage games were being played at Santa Rosa’s Doyle Park. Organizers developed a system within the protocols, allowing kids to play in game type situations.  For a few weeks, local kids vs local kids and no Covid cases or negative issues arose.  These events were shut down by the county and the kids went back to practices only in small groups.  This could have been a perfect test case but no one monitored the success and no one interviewed the organizers to see if there was any cause for alarm or perhaps a reason to open up other local venues.

Private schools have been much more proactive than public schools mainly because they do not have to adhere to district rules set forth by administration.  Creating opportunities for kids to be active, improving mood, increasing motivation and focus are factors that far out-way the potential risks in the minds of most private school administrators.

Without this exercise and the hope of competing they have noticed kids, as well as everyone else involved, can fall into a funk or worse, become depressed, lose interest or motivation.

To date no major outbreaks or issues have occurred at these local private institutions, yet the public schools lag far behind in alowing kids to play and compete.  If competitions do resume in January the public school athletes may not be prepared to compete.

Elizabeth Evans, Director of Teaching and Learning at the Santa Rosa City Schools says, “We are happy to be able to provide our fall athletes the chance to engage in safe and socially-distanced conditioning activities outdoors.”  But makes no commitment as to when local games and competition can take place.

“There is no way to predict what conditions will be in January,” She adds. “We look to Sonoma County Public Health and the CDC and of course keep track of what the CIF says.”

In a local softball organization the organizers cite 3 suicide attempts in the 14u age group in the past 7 months, in the previous 7 years organizers reported none.  Some girls’ teams have traveled numerous times out of state to Texas, Tennessee and Arizona. Upon return all players and coaches were tested each time and no Covid-19 cases emerged.  Local soccer, baseball and basketball teams having been traveling to find games as well.

In a recent large study at the University of Wisconsin of over 90,000 soccer athletes from 34 states, only one positive case was associated to soccer activities and the case rate amongst these players was less than the average population.

The evidence points to athletic activities being safe and also vital for our children in terms of their overall well being.

Most High School administrators are doubtful that the CIF, as well as the Governor’s office will allow sports to resume in the new year.  Governor Newsom’s kids belong to and participate in a private youth soccer club, by the way.

Local Youth coaches are trying to keep the kids active and happy, but it is not easy.  Adhering to guidelines, putting up with harassment from passers-by, and following extremely restrictive protocols make being a volunteer coach extremely difficult.

In no way am I suggesting that Covid-19 should not be taken seriously and all precautions should be used to prevent the spread of the virus but are youth sports being unfairly targeted?

Local County Officials often say, our first concern will always be the health and well-being of our students, staff and families.

If that were true then why not give them hope and accelerate the timeline to begin to compete?

The Science shows that sports competition is no more dangerous than going to the mall or grocery store, while the mental, social and physical harm caused by the lockdown has far worse consequences.  47 other states have already proven this.  Facts over fear, come on California let the kids play.