Sports in jeopardy following spike in COVID-19 cases

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Aidan Lynd

One of baseball’s workout pods prepares for their socially-distanced workouts.

Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout California, including in San Mateo County, high school sports are set to begin tryouts soon, though their format will be much different this year. 

To accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) has divided high school sports into two sections: Season 1 and Season 2. Season 1 sports include volleyball, football, water polo, and cross country, with official tryouts set to start as soon as restrictions permit. Season 2 will include staggered tryout dates, with golf, soccer, and tennis starting Feb. 22, swimming starting March 8, and finally basketball, baseball, wrestling, lacrosse, badminton, and track all beginning March 15. 

Guidelines imposed by SUHSD include strict social distancing, masks worn at all times, and no shared surfaces without proper sanitization in between each use. It is the last guideline that coaches find the most restrictive, as baseball and softball players cannot play catch, basketball players cannot run drills in which they pass a ball, football players cannot work on receiving, and many other sports face similar limitations.

Coaches are struggling to find new ways to keep Carlmont athletes prepared and in shape for their season while working around these regulations. Many foster frustrations due to their lack of authority when it comes to decisions for their teams. 

“Any coach’s plans are regulated by the district. If they don’t let us practice normal, then how are we supposed to do anything close to what is considered normal for tryouts,” said Suhail Mohammadi, the JV boys basketball coach.

When it comes down to it, coaches have very little control over what they can and cannot do at tryouts and preseason workouts. Coaches and athletic directors have to follow the rules set by their districts, districts follow their league, leagues follow sections, and sections follow the California Department of Public Health. 

In addition to practice regulations, SUHSD has also changed rules regarding physical education (PE) credits and how to earn them through sports. In previous years, no-cut sports like cross country could be used to earn the PE credits necessary to graduate. However, no-cut sports now have to cut athletes to keep their numbers at a safe level. 

“I was told that sophomores and seniors should sign up for PE classes and not depend on athletics, because it will be a lot harder to make a team this year with fewer spots available. Juniors did not require credits this year due to a stressful academic year,” said Patrick Smith, Carlmont’s athletic director. 

“We won’t be sharing stuff this year. Each person should bring their own water bottle and foam rollers if they wish to use those at our practices. That’s how it’ll be unless we get a hold of some of those saturated wipes to wipe them off between uses,” said John Lilygren, Carlmont’s head cross country coach. 

Even with safety precautions in place, there is still the looming threat of all seasons being canceled. 

“Who knows if there will be a season. If the NFL games are being canceled, that’s millions of dollars being lost, so how is a high school game going to be played,” Mohammadi said.

In the past, coaches have used shared school equipment during practices and competitions to aid athletes in muscle building, recovery, and nutrition. 

Coaches are looking for answers, but the district is yet to provide any good news for the upcoming seasons. 

The California Interscholastic Federation does not expect the California Department of Health will issue any guidance allowing for schools to return to full practice and competition until after Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest.

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