On Tuesday, California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that there may be another delay in returning high school and other youth sports programs back after the long COVID-19 suspension of play.
At a news conference, Ghaly said that California and the CHHS are currently in talks with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) about when high school athletes can return. Many high school sports, most notably football, had been pushed from the normal fall start up to spring, causing a crunch of fall, winter, and spring sports to start around the same time. Ghaly further noted that because of COVID-19 continuing with high numbers of new positive tests – “cases” – and deaths every day, with California even hitting the 3 million case benchmark on Tuesday, that athletics may be delayed even further due to lockdowns and in-school school closures still in effect across the state.
“But obviously the state of the surge and the conditions in many, many of our communities are pretty dire, pretty significant, so trying to work with those different partners to make sure that we land in a place that allows us to do what we’ve always wanted to do, which was resume activities that so many people miss but do it safely,” explained Ghaly on Tuesday.
At the same time, the CIF is already limiting the number of games and tournaments should sports come back next week. Many championships are being canceled for fall sports. They are also instituting a severe crackdown of any teams that do play before the ban is over, such as Catholic, Christian, and other private schools that have played each other during the last few weeks. Those schools will now likely face fines and suspensions from the CIF.
However, for many schools, the need to play isn’t largely due to financial or school needs, but for the students themselves.
Athletic, scholastic future on the line for many HS athletes
“A lot of these kids are, or were, looking at scholarships to D-1, D-2, and D-3 schools,” said “James,” a public high school coach who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity. “Private schools, or really schools with a lot of wealthy students, can afford to get kids to camps where they can be looked at by scouts and college representatives. Poorer schools, almost always public and in less wealthy areas, can’t do that and rely on games, as well as tape from games, to get them scholarships. Without these games, or any kind of play time, they’ll likely miss out on playing at college, and also, their future. You won’t see it much with this years graduates since many already signed with colleges, but next year, man, I don’t want to think about it.”
“People think this is just a black and white, schools wanting to play but the state saying they can’t sort of thing. But there is so much more on the line here. We’ve seen so many unauthorized games happen already. And why do you think? Players and coaches are willing to risk getting COVID for a shot at college. There are other reasons too, of course, but for players especially, they want to play, they need to play, and they’ll risk it to play.”
“Right now the state is still figuring out the right guidelines. And if they follow them similar to college changes this year, which the state did allow eventually, we know now through their trial and error how to do this safely.”
“If they delay it again, or even cancel all games this year, they are condemning a lot of students, especially poorer students and minority students, to not getting athletic scholarships and maybe missing out on college altogether. And, in my opinion, we just can’t do that to them.”
A final decision on the state if the reopening of high school athletics is to go forward is expected by next week, with most athletics returning under CIF sanctioning during the month of February.
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