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Prep sports look to get out from under COVID’s shadow


Up to now, COVID-19 has been like a haunting reality that you wish to escape but haven’t been able to do so. 

It has reached into virtually every crevice of peoples’ lives and has dramatically affected our perspectives, our social interaction and freedoms that we simply took for granted. It has created a fearful climate where an incalculable number of folks across this country have opted to completely hunker down and shutter themselves off from virtually any contact with others. Yes, there have been pandemics before but this one rates at the very top of the list on a variety of fronts. In many ways, it has become a horror movie run amuck.

And just like everything else, the high school sports scene here locally and throughout the state of California has taken a huge beating when it comes to the telling blows that COVID has delivered. Hard as it may be to believe, almost 11 months have gone by since prep competition of any kind has been waged in these parts. That’s an interminable amount of time that no one could have possibly foreseen.

However, as this is being written, it appears as if a CIF San Diego Section return-to-play plan is about to be enacted and that indeed, in the months of February and March a restart will take place in which hopefully all prep teams will be able to practice and eventually get back to competing against one another. 

But because so many variables are at play and because of the sometimes-skittish nature and knee-jerk reactions of certain medical advisors and state politicians, nothing is for certain. Circumstances and scenarios could shift at the drop of a hat. Potential lockdowns loom as an omnipresent threat.

As it is, many would not recognize high school sports as currently constituted due to the impact of the coronavirus. Because the traditional fall season was completely wiped out, all pursuits have been condensed into either a Season 1 or Season 2 classification. As a result, many pastimes, even if they do get the go-ahead, will be playing at a time totally out of their normal cycle. 

Secondly, all sports have been assigned to a color tier dependent on their risk factor, contact potential (low, medium or high) and whether they are waged indoors or out. Colors like purple, red, orange and yellow are taking on a whole new meaning as it relates to prep athletics.

It is not the purpose of this article to go knee deep into the weeds and go micro on all the particulars. To be honest, trying to keep up with all the data, permutations and requirements needed to get certain sports started is enough to give one an annoying headache. Taking a calculus exam seems a breeze compared to getting a grip on all this information. 

But bear this in mind: Low to minimum contact endeavors such as cross country, golf, tennis, track and field as well as swim and dive have a much better chance of moving forward and completing a season than do higher interaction sports like football, basketball, lacrosse and wrestling.  

And also remember this. Should California again move back into a stay-at-home order, then all bets are off and then prep sports will once more come to an immediate stop. 

Other states throughout the land have long since gotten high school sports up and running and a case can be made that perhaps California officials reacted to the extreme and became too draconian in not allowing prep athletics to kick off before now. Highly respected doctors, psychologists, administrators and coaches in the Golden State have long since talked about the toll and damaging price that young athletes have paid because they were precluded from practicing, interacting with their teammates and competing. To suggest that they should have been accommodated earlier that this does seem to have legitimate merit.

How all this plays out remains to be seen. It’s hard not to be somewhat skeptical about whether things will all come together and allow every sport to experience an uninterrupted season. At present that seems very much like wishful thinking given that there are just too many factors that could complicate and scuttle matters. Given all that has gone on before and the previous delays that put prep athletics on hold, another halt would hardly come as a surprise.

It will interesting to monitor in the next days and weeks what the future has in store and whether the coronavirus can be sidestepped and mitigated against to the point where prep sports can again become part of everyday living. For so many people with a vested interest is seeing that happen, let’s hope that becomes a welcomed reality.

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