High school sports await future

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The Sac-Joaquin Section Board Of Managers and Lead Commissioners discussed the future of high school sports for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year at a meeting on Jan. 26.

One of the sports increasingly discussed by many communities over the last few weeks is football.

The high school football season was slated to begin in fall 2020, but was postponed, like other activities, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Football was put into season two — expected to start on March 1 — of the four-season plan developed by the board of managers at the meeting.

The first season began on Feb. 8 and finishes up with season four on June 12, with each season lasting six to eight weeks. According to the official letter from the TCAL Board of Managers, “each league shall determine the season for each of its sports within these established parameters.” 

San Joaquin County as a whole must enter the “moderate” or “orange” tier as part of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy Plan before football can take place. As of Feb. 18, the county remained in the purple tier indicating “widespread” cases.

Tri City Athletic League (TCAL) Commissioner Steve Lopez said they’re not sure about football resuming yet.

“We just have to hope and see,” Lopez said.

If the football season was to start according to the established dates, the programs would be pushed directly into a five-game league action without any early contests or practices.

First year Lodi High Junior Varsity Defensive Backs Coach Manuel Machado said there won’t be any preseason games to get the team ready. 

“We can’t practice together as a team right now and most of the guys are doing their own workouts just to stay in shape and ready,” Machado said.

Machado said the pandemic has taken away key aspects of team sports.

“Learning how to work with one another and building core relationships over time with your teammates that turn into brothers are some of the most important and special life moments that are being missed out on by not playing. The social aspect of football is very important,” said Machado.

Others in California have joined a movement called “Let Them Play,” which advocates for youth and high school sports to return as soon as possible. 

Brad Hensley, co-founder of the “Let Them Play CA” Facebook group and a football father, said in a recent interview with ABC that other states have already reopened youth sports. 

“35 other states have played football. 40 other states have played youth sports. Not one reported serious incident of a child going into a hospital because of COVID, let alone suicide,” said Hensley in the interview.

The Facebook group has grown up to 50,000 members in total since the organization was started by Hensley and his wife in December.