‘Let Them Play’ rallies call for state to lift restrictions on youth sports

Sports

SAN DIEGO — They lined the street cheering loudly with signs in hand Friday at Torrey Pines High School — not for a game, but in hopes of reviving youth sports throughout the state.

A unnamed Torrey Pines High School student holds up a sign which reads “Let Us Play” at a rally on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Student-athletes, their families and others came together in a series of rallies as a part of “Let Them Play CA.” Supporters of the initiative are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to lift restrictions to allow high school and youth sports to resume amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

State guidelines currently allow for distanced practices and conditioning, but no official competitions.

“It’s so important — really need to show state leaders that this is not fair,” one Torrey Pines parent said.

Because of pandemic restrictions, high school sports largely have been shut down since last March. Supporters argue kids’ physical and mental health are impacted without a forum to compete.

They’re also concerned about high school seniors missing their final seasons, potentially losing out on college scholarship opportunities with few avenues to put their skills on tape. Currently, three dozen other states are allowing prep sports to play out for those opportunities.

But California — the nation’s most populous state currently averaging more than 500 COVID-19 deaths a day, including 637 deaths on Friday — is in a difficult spot. Both the state and San Diego County have experienced a surge in virus infections and hospitalizations dating back to late November roughly after the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the CDC, high or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in a community “increase the risk of infection and spread among youth athletes, coaches, and families.” The federal agency noted that sports which require close contact between players — such as basketball or wrestling — are difficult to enforce social distancing, and that high intensity activities pose a greater risk for getting or spreading the virus.

“Administrators should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in the community when deciding whether to resume or continue youth sporting activities,” the agency said in a Dec. 31 release on youth sports.

Two women holding signs at a rally for the return of youth sports on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 outside of Torrey Pines High School.

Still, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for many used to competing in their respective seasons.

“The thought I’m not able to play my senior season, not able to make those memories with my teammates is something that’s been taken away from me — it’s improper,” said Luke Simsiman, a member of the Torrey Pines football team.

Supporters argue there’s little to no risk when it comes to youth sports and spreading the virus. They would like to see youth sports resume safely.

“Really just the psychological benefit — talk about building your immunity system and overall confidence,” said Michael Cornell, a parent of three student-athletes. “It’s a huge part of high school and life. It’s amazing it’s come down to this for common sense solutions.”

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