For many high school athletes in California who have been eagerly waiting to resume competition in their respective sports, some good news has finally arrived.
Based on direction from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), competition for all outdoor youth and adult sports was able to resume on Feb. 26, 2021 for counties with a COVID-19 case rate less than 14 per 100,000. This includes high school football, water polo, soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse. These sports join cross country, tennis, golf, and track and field, which were allowed to resume competition on Jan. 25, 2021. Indoor sports competition is not allowed to resume under this direction.
Orange County Catholic high schools, which compete in the Trinity League, are following guidelines that have been issued by CDPH, the Orange County Department of Health, the National Federation of High School Sports and the California Interstate Federation (CIF) State and Southern Section offices.
Guidelines for each sport vary slightly, but general protocols the high schools are using include health screenings and temperature checks of all student athletes and coaches by school athletic training staff, wearing of masks and physical distancing when not participating in activity, and frequent sanitation of hands, sports equipment and gear.
“Getting the all clear for outdoor sports to begin is huge for our student-athletes and coaches,” says Servite Athletic Director Alan Clinton. “They have worked diligently over the last year to safely condition as guidelines have allowed, and prepare for when they were able to return to play. Now that the time has finally come for them to compete, there’s a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm.”
Additional direction from CDPH requires weekly COVID-19 testing of athletes and coaches in the high-contact outdoor sports of football and water polo if a county is above the threshold of 7 cases per 100,000.
“We are excited to get the opportunity to compete,” says Servite Football Head Coach Troy Thomas. “Our guys have been working extremely hard, staying motivated and focused, despite their season being in question at times. We are ready to take the field and make the most of this season.”
JSerra Catholic High School’s girls soccer team returned to play on March 2.
“The players, parents and staff couldn’t be more excited about the ability to be a part of the sport they have been missing for almost a year,” says JSerra Girls Soccer Head Coach Greg Baker. “Now that they get to participate with and for their schoolmates, it makes it even more special.”
Friday night lights and student cheering sections will likely look different, as attendance will be limited based on adherence to local gathering restrictions.
But for the schools, coaches and athletes, especially the seniors, the chance to be able to play again is welcome news.
“When I review the last year, the toughest role to have had to play is head cheerleader,” says JSerra Athletic Director Chris Ledyard. “These coaches have continued to connect and condition the student athletes, even in the face of no contests. They are heroes in their perseverance, creativity and social awareness in lifting the students to better headspace during this time.
“Proverbs 29:18 states, ‘Without a vision, the people perish,’” adds Ledyard. “It has been a chore to re-invent the ‘vision’ when it was so difficult to know when contests would begin again. The vision is restored, and the teams are prepared to let their hard work come to fruition.”