SVSJ commentary: What the hell took you so long, Doctor? California working on COVID-19 youth sports regulations, which can’t come soon enough for athletes and their families

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and youth athletes up and down the West Coast continue to do what they can to find opportunities in a relatively closed environment in this part of the country, there is some news today from California that may provide hope for athletes and their families, but also brings with it some frustration and anger from them as well. And us.

According to the Orange County Register, during a briefing with reporters yesterday, the head of the California Health and Human Services Agency, that state’s equivalent to our state’s Department of Health here in Washington, indicated that a plan for the safe restart of youth and high school sports in the Golden State was coming “soon” and provided some hints as to what that might look like.

The hints, reported the newspaper, were essentially that what might be allowed in a particular area would be tied to that area’s status within California’s COVID-19 restart plan. This setup is similar to that of Washington’s youth sports restart plan, which was implemented last month following several weeks of impassioned demands from youth athletes, coaches and their parents which included at least one rally in Olympia and two meetings with government, school and health officials.

This was not the first time, according to the Register, he had discussed this; the paper indicated this was also discussed during a briefing last month as well. “We are close,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, who is the head of that state agency, told reporters. “These are not easy guidances to put together. There’s not just the competition issue, but there’s the conditioning issue. There’s understanding how we continue to drive through our equity lenses to make sure that there’s important, broad access to all of these opportunities. … I hope that we find a way to hold on a little longer.”

Hold on a little longer? Really, Doctor? And there’s more. When asked about the large number of select teams from multiple sports from his state that have gone across state lines, to places such as Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, along with the multitude of high school athletes who left California over the summer to play this fall in other states, the doctor had this to say. “Moving into states and other areas with higher transmission is risky,” he said. “We want to find ways to discourage people from traveling long distances to play other teams, to play local teams, because it’s allowed there.” Well, duh. We’ve pointed this out here in the past. But here’s the thing, Doctor. You and your agency have had four, yes, FOUR, months to put something together. Just like here in Washington. And yet, you sat on your hands and did nothing. Nothing.

All the while, athletes from your state, and we know this because we pay attention to these things, have made that trip to find opportunities to play. At a great majority of the select tournaments we have covered during the course of this restart involving teams with Mount Si and Cedarcrest High School athletes, among others from here in Washington, there have been California teams competing. Baseball, softball, basketball, you name it. And we wonder if some of the tournament opportunities, especially in softball, are now being put together specifically to give California teams a chance to compete?

This is how bad it has gotten, this is how desperate the kids and their families and coaches are getting. And all because you, Dr. Ghaly, have had FOUR months, perhaps a little longer than that, to put something together and only now you are getting around to it. You’re just as guilty as Washington Governor Jay Inslee and his staff about not giving a damn about these kids. At least here in Washington, we had student-athletes, such as Mount Si’s Cole Norah, who finally had enough and forced the issue. While the end result wasn’t what had been hoped, we have a plan. California does not, and we’re not sure Oregon does, either. But Oregon is a different song for a different time.

Athletes all up and down the West Coast are being denied opportunities to chase their dreams while kids in states such as Idaho and Utah, while there have been some challenges to be sure, are getting those opportunities. And the requisite college looks that are coming from that. Kids from all over the country are signing scholarship letters of intent today to attend colleges next year. While many are coming from California, the reality is is that there would be a lot more if only the state, meaning you and your agency, sir, had found a way to establish protocols for a restart a lot sooner so that kids could have been back out on the field a lot sooner. We call on Dr. Ghaly and Gov. Newsom to work hard, and quickly, to establish safe COVID-19 youth sports restart protocols for their state, because those likely will impact youth athletes all up and down the West Coast as we move into these all the sudden very critical fall and winter months with the cases of the virus around the country increasing.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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