REGION — The return of youth sports is a critical and welcome change to life during the COVID-19 pandemic for high school athletes in more ways than one.
Thanks in large part to the advocacy of parent groups like LetThemPlayCA, based out of San Diego, high school sports like football have begun at least abbreviated seasons in the state, giving student-athletes a chance to get back to playing with their teammates — but also an opportunity to impress college recruiters.
Bodie DeSilva, who works for Scorebooklive.com and covers myriad high school sports and the college recruiting process in San Diego County, spoke about the importance of that to some athletes.
“I know there’s a bunch of colleges who have understood the situation and have held scholarships but getting these six games, or five games for some kids, is super important if you want to play at the next level, even if it’s not the Division I level,” DeSilva said.
Football games started in the county on March 12, and in the battle for Del Mar Heights Road, Cathedral Catholic didn’t show any rust with a 41-0 victory over Torrey Pines.
There have already been a pair of signing days for football since the pandemic started, with a high number of athletes already committing to play at schools at the next level. But being able to get more of themselves onto tape for scouts will be key for some of the younger athletes.
“It will be good for some of these kids to be able to say, ‘Look, maybe in these 15-16 months since you last saw me play, I added 30 pounds, I’ve grown two inches.’ Just things like that to show the schools they’ve used the time to work,” DeSilva said.
A critical part of keeping kids on the field and on the court from here on out will be compliance with health orders to make sure transmission levels do not increase as a result of games.
Currently, rules for fans vary from district to district but generally, only a handful of guests per player are allowed to attend, with masks and distancing being mandated. Coaches are also required to wear masks and players are required to wear them when on the sidelines.
“I’ve been surprised really at how good coaches and everyone has been. I know sometimes watching college and the pros, sometimes coaches get a little sloppy about it on the sidelines,” DeSilva said. “But coaches have been awesome.”
When football teams first started their games, there was a requirement for weekly testing. But since the numbers have continued to fall in the county, which recently moved into the COVID-19 red tier, such testing is no longer required.
The football season will be shortened to five or six games depending on the school, with no playoffs. The basketball season scheduled to tip-off in the coming weeks is slated to be a relatively normal one, with postseason tournaments and championship games.