Youth, adult sports can resume outdoors in L.A. County

Valencia High School sprinters Trey Suffedini, 16, and Cienna Cruz, 17, stretch during a track team conditioning workout on the Valencia High School football field on Wednesday, 020321. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writer

Youth and adult sports leagues can resume outdoors in Los Angeles County, after the county’s  Department of Public Health announced Wednesday the agency is aligning its protocols with the state’s. 

This follows the state’s announcement Friday that counties with an adjusted case rate below 14 per 100,000 residents would permit all outdoor youth and adult recreational sports, including practice, training and competitions, to resume. As of Tuesday, L.A. County’s adjusted case rate has fallen to 12.3 per 100,000, per the state’s metrics.

Sports allowed to resume include both moderate-contact sports, such as baseball, field hockey, softball and volleyball, as well as high-contact sports, like football, basketball, rugby, soccer and water polo — all of which must occur outdoors, with modifications. 

The state’s guidance is expected to take effect Friday. CIF Southern Section officials announced Feb. 19 that, once counties reach the required threshold, outdoor high school sports could begin according to the following schedule after implementing the required modifications: 

  • Boys/girls water polo: Begin competition Friday; season ends March 20.
  • Football: Conditioning begins immediately; first day of full pads Friday; games begin March 11; season ends April 17.
  • Girls tennis: Can begin this past Monday as planned, with dual matches only.
  • Boys/girls soccer: Begins Saturday.
  • Boys tennis: Begins Monday, with dual matches only.
  • Boys/girls lacrosse: Begins March 12.
  • Boys/girls swimming and diving: Begins March 13, with dual meets only.
  • Baseball and softball: Begins March 19.
  • Boys/girls golf: Begins March 20, with dual matches only.
  • Boys/girls track and field: Begins March 20, with dual meets only.

In addition, indoor sports can begin to play outdoors, according to the following schedule: 

  • Girls volleyball: Begins Friday; season ends March 20.
  • Traditional competitive cheer: Begins immediately either virtually or in a dual match format only.
  • Boys/girls wrestling: Begins March 5, with dual matches only.
  • Badminton: Begins March 6, with dual matches only.
  • Boys/girls basketball: Begins March 12.
  • Boys volleyball: Begins March 13.
  • Competitive sport cheer: Begins March 27, with dual matches only.

Local reaction

The news that sports would be able to return to school campuses came as both a welcome, yet work-inducing surprise for local coaches and William S. Hart Union High School District officials. 

On Tuesday, administrators and staff from across the Hart district met for three hours to digest the rapidly evolving guidelines from the state and county, and to plan for the reintroduction of high school competition. 

“We met for three hours (Tuesday) to discuss opportunities (for competition to return), but to also consider the challenges and what we need to do to open up sports for kids,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhlman in a phone call Wednesday. “And we’re going to be meeting again on Friday, because on a weekly basis, we tend to learn more from the county on our Thursday county phone calls.”

The cohort and athletic conditioning will continue for district students as the plans for a return to competition are finalized, but the district reminded families that the programs offered to students are dependent on county restrictions with respect to community transmission of COVID-19.

Currently, there appears to be a discrepancy between state and county guidelines as they pertain to team sports competing against one another, district officials said, but they will use this time to continue to work out how they can make sure students have time to acclimate their bodies once again to intense physical activity while also giving enough time for them to finish a Foothill League season. 

“It’s going to be a lot of work for coaches and players to still create that social distance and be safe,” said Dan Kelley, Golden Valley High School’s varsity football coach. “So, safety is key; that’s No. 1. And then everything else will take care of itself.”

Specifically for football, Kelley said there will be no non-league play, including playoffs and the CIF championships. As of the latest update, teams will need to complete their five-week league seasons by April 17, but are awaiting word from the district on when they can suit up in pads for full-contact play.

“We’re waiting for instruction and direction from our district,” said Kelley. “That should be coming out shortly.”

“But I mean, obviously, this is something that the kids and the coaches have been waiting for,” he added. “There’s definitely some excitement, obviously, and some relief.”

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