Let them play protest takes place in Half Moon Bay
Protesters including High School athletes lined Main Street to voice their concern over the lack of high school sports during the pandemic on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Adam Pardee / Review

A chorus of honking horns and cheers greeted the assembled crowd of a few dozen Half Moon Bay High School coaches, students and parents gathered at the intersection of Lewis Foster Drive and Main Street on Friday afternoon.

Those in attendance were bringing attention to the lack of high school sports in California because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent regulations. The rally was held under the banner of “Let Them Play CA,” which started as a parental Facebook group that now has thousands of members. The main message is for Gov. Gavin Newsom, along with other state and county officials, to look at data they say supports their position that high school sports can be played safely and would benefit students’ mental health.

Patrick Walsh, head coach of Junipero Serra High School’s football team, voiced his support for athletics to resume and helped create the Golden State High School Football Coaches Community. According to data it collected from members, student-athletes participated in 933,895 workouts statewide between May 1 to Dec. 31. The rate of transmission from those workouts was 1 in 103,766 athletes. For coaches attending those workouts, it was 1 for every 69,922.

“Played safely, kids are not at risk and their families are not at risk from a sport being played,” said Emma Hofmann, mother of senior Cougar football player Tristan Hofmann.

The California Department of Public Health announced in December it would not decide on youth sports until Jan. 25. As of Sunday, there were nearly 3 million COVID-19 cases statewide resulting in more than 33,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The California

Interscholastic Federation, which has oversight into each section, said it will rely on state guidelines.

In order for high school sports to resume, California’s stay-at-home order would need to be lifted. If or when that happens, schools can look to the CIF’s current guidelines, which state that low-risk sports such as tennis, golf, swimming and cross-country can be played within counties in the “purple tier” (widespread virus risk). Baseball, softball and lacrosse are allowed in “red tier” (substantial) counties. Football, volleyball, soccer and water polo teams need the county to be in the “orange tier,” (moderate), while basketball and wrestling require a “yellow tier” (minimal). As of the time of writing, 54 out of the state’s 58 counties remain in the purple tier. Three are in red, one is orange, and none are yellow.

According to the National Federation of High Schools, 34 states completed a football season in 2020, while 30 states have begun playing basketball. California is 1 of 7 states that have not had any sanctioned high school sports since March.

Organizers of the rally say, because of the restrictions on sports in California, club teams are traveling across state lines into other western states such as Nevada and Arizona. A November soccer tournament with 500 teams held in Phoenix raised concerns about the spread of the coronavirus across state lines.

“In my mind, it’s better to play in your community with coaches that have the safety protocols in place,” Hofmann said.

With remote learning as the new normal and in-person activities limited, parents and coaches are worried about the isolation students feel and how that affects their social and emotional learning.

Sean Ediger, a senior basketball player at Half Moon Bay High School, stood alongside other student-athletes on the curb on Friday. His handmade black-and-orange sign read “Remember the Students.” Ediger is disappointed the team hasn’t been able to play. As a senior, this postponed season is something he and his teammates had been looking forward to for years.

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