By Charlie Pentland and Brian Gewecke
Graphic By Emma Cypressi
Student-athletes are still facing the same confusion as to if and when their sports will be allowed to begin their seasons. While many college and professional sports are making their returns, high school sports don’t have the same luxury and have had many hiccups in their attempts to begin. With such a large number of student-athletes in high school athletics, it appears that many attempts to get local sports started were stopped quickly.
The absence of high school sports, though a small issue compared to others from the pandemic, has left many young athletes disappointed. For seniors hoping to have large final high school seasons, whether for one final enjoyable experience or in hopes of a college offer, the current situation is especially disappointing. Whether or not high school sports make much of a return this year, school districts are beginning to release guidelines. If there aren’t continuous COVID-19 spikes, many sports may have a chance at making a return.
Although informational guidelines with some specific dates have been released, such dates aren’t set in stone, necessarily. Such dates serve more as target dates and are subject to change with changing local COVID-19 numbers. Currently, there are four fall sports: cross country, football, volleyball and water polo. Of the four, volleyball will likely have tryouts sometime in the spring, while the others do not yet have a known date. Ten other sports are listed for the spring semester. Currently, soccer has the earliest tryout date on February 15th. Wrestling, tennis and swimming have the next tryout date on March 8th. Finally, basketball, baseball, competitive cheer, golf, lacrosse, softball and track and field are to start on March 15th. Although athletes should prepare to begin sports on these dates, some tryout dates are very likely to change at one point or another.
On January 12th, the California Interscholastic Federation modified the restrictions of high school athletics in a graphic viewable on their website. They have established guidelines for schools and rules in the case of a positive test from an athlete. Most notably, the CIF gave returning levels for sports, stating what local COVID-19 levels must be for certain high school sports to resume. In the “widespread” tier, Las Lomas sports allowed to resume are cross-country, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field. If local levels lower to “substantial,” baseball, girls’ lacrosse and softball may begin. If COVID-19 levels continue decreasing to “moderate,” football, boys’ lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and water polo may begin practices. Finally, at the level with the most restrictions are basketball, competitive cheer, and wrestling, which cannot start until the COVID-19 levels are at “minimal.”
When asked what he thought about basketball being in the category with the strictest return restrictions, sophomore Khalil Grant answered, “I’m kind of frustrated, because basketball should come first, since it’s one of the more popular sports at Las Lomas – if not in general – and other sports are being played that have the same risk of getting COVID-19 as basketball.” This is likely to be a common sentiment, as with football and basketball, some of the most popular sports in the school, being in the lower two tiers of returns, people are likely to question what qualifies other sports to resume before them.
When asked his thoughts about his lacrosse season having established return restrictions, sophomore Salam Alrawi said, “COVID obviously [cut] our 2020 seasons short, but it also has ended many peoples’ lives, so when you put that into perspective, we’re pretty lucky, and we hope to get back to competing in 2021.” Alrawi and his boys’ lacrosse teammates will be allowed to begin practicing if COVID-19 levels reach “Moderate,” meaning local COVID-19 levels would have to drop a substantial amount if their sport is to return.
Some athletes, however, are luckier with the ability of their sports to begin action. With cross-country being cleared to begin in the purple level, participating athletes such as senior Grant Askins are allowed to begin practicing for the time being. When asked about his thoughts about cross-country being allowed to begin, he responded, “I think it’s great that we can finally start, and I hope that the situation gets better so we can have a relatively long season. I’m confident that our group will be responsible and stay cautious for the sake of the season.” Of course, for sports to come back and stay in action, athletes have to do their part and be responsible. Athletes have to continue to social distance and wear masks, or they can’t expect to play their sports. If athletes act with maturity and stay safe, the return of sports will be more likely.
Obviously, even the sports that resume won’t be like they were before the pandemic. There will be several restrictions in place to ensure the safety of all competing athletes. “I think there’s definitely going to be changes, from masks being worn by those not actively racing to more dual meets,” said Askins. Dual meets are those only between two schools instead of the regular several schools, and decreasing sizes of competitions in ways like this can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep high school sports safe. Although many changes, such as possibly empty stands, shorter seasons and lots of mask-wearing probably won’t sound appealing to most athletes, these changes are essential to keep sports safe, and if athletes truly want to play their sports, they will be willing to accept such changes.
Despite one’s hope that there won’t be additional issues standing in the way of sports starting again, one should expect that there will be COVID-19 spikes and some sports, likely those in the lower tiers, may not return at all this year. Although set restrictions will allow some sports to begin before others, and some may not start at all, any guidelines for the return of high school athletics are a good start in the hope for a return of sports.