Local high school coach wants families to decide if their kids play sports this fall


SAN DIEGO – The California Interscholastic Federation soon will decide the fate of high school sports this fall. But one local coach wants to take the pressure off state and local administrators by letting families make that decision for themselves.

“Really, it’s about me waking up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks back and realizing I have to do something,” said Marlon Gardinera, head football coach at Scripps Ranch High School.

This fall, Gardinera will start his fourth season at Scripps Ranch — whenever the season begins, that is. Facing an uncertain future for the fall sports schedule, he said he wants his kids to have the chance to play sometime this academic year.

Recently, he launched a new website — LetFamiliesDecide.org — to give California parents a voice as to whether their children should be able to participate in sports this fall.

“Some amazing, amazing things happen as a result of kids participating in high school sports,” he said. “We came up with it to give parents a voice, to let families decide if they want to take on the risk or assume the responsibility for their kids being back in high school sports.”

Todd Durkin, who runs Fitness Quest 10 in Scripps Ranch, said he’s had to learn new rules to operate his business due to COVID-19. His son, Luke, plays quarterback for Gardinera and the Falcons, and already is committed to play college football at Davidson.

Durkin believes sports can help kids deal with and fight back against COVID-19.

“Exercise and training is absolutely imperative now,” he said. “It builds your immunity; it builds your strength. It’s not an option; it’s mandatory. I know what the game of football and sports do for young boys and young girls when it comes to self-esteem and I also see what the potential possibility and the small percentage of kids getting this.”

He adds, “In my humble opinion as a coach, as a trainer and as a father – most importantly – I’ll take the risk all day and allow my kids to compete, being safe.”

Gardinera efforts extend beyond football. He wants families to have input on any sports their children choose to play this school year, and he knows it won’t happen until kids go back to school.

“We’re not asking for exemptions or exceptions,” he said. “We’re not asking anybody to bend the rules in order for us to participate. But we do want to shift it from those administrators who have a heavy burden to decide if they want to put other people’s kids at risk versus letting families decide if they want to assume that risk.”

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