The rally was part of the Let Them Play CA, a statewide protest occurring simultaneously in 138 locations across the Golden State. More than 34,000 members were signed up on the movement’s Facebook page.
“This is a parent-driven, grassroots organization whose singular purpose is to create a voice, so that the California government and the school districts throughout the state will work quickly to create a plan to allow our student athletes to return to this field, or court, or rink, or pool of their choice, so that they can play their sport,” Jason Jamison, Troy High School’s varsity baseball coach, told The Epoch Times.
The peaceful public rally was filled with athletes and their family members holding signs and banners calling for the reopening of the high school’s sports competitions.
Team sports in California are not allowed to compete, or even practice at their normal capacity. However, many states have allowed their high school sports to resume during the pandemic.
“We’re just asking the State of California, and the school districts to devise a plan, quickly, that allows us to return to the field safely to participate in the sports that the kids need and love,” Jamison said.
Troy High School has 52 players in its baseball program. In past years of the program, Jamison said he would have nearly perfect attendance to each practice. Now, the team has up to 32 students each practice.
Baseball practices are limited to cohorts of 10 people. Those cohorts must stay together the entire practice, and are not allowed to mingle with players from the other cohorts.
Competitions, scrimmages, and practice games involving two separate teams are prohibited.
The team is not allowed to hit baseballs on the baseball field. The players are limited to hitting baseballs off a tee into a net, or hitting in a batting cage. Players cannot share equipment, and everything must be wiped down after use.
He said that even though his players are social distancing, with masks on, they come to practice for the social interaction with their friends on the team, for the love of the sport, and to work out for health’s sake, Jamison said.
Jamison said many students who come to practice would still attend even if they were not promised to play in the upcoming season, which begins on March 19.
“Sports in general are what motivate many students…to eat healthy, to work out, to condition, to focus on their academics, to get a good night’s sleep, to do all those things necessary to come to the field and be prepared to compete at a high level,” Jamison said.
Jamison said the academic eligibility rate is low in part due to the suspension of outdoor sport competitions. Students must maintain a relatively good grade point average in order to play on team sports. He said players with marginal grades are at the greatest risk of failing their classes, without the incentive to study to be allowed to play.
“There’s no motivation for these students…A significant number of them believe that this year is just going to be a waste of time,” Jamison said. “[They’re thinking], ‘If I can’t play my sport. Why do I need to be academically eligible?’”
Jamison said he hopes the state will “quickly work together to figure out a method, so that we can return to the field and compete in our individual sports safely, like 40 other states around the country have done.”
Kristen Hensley, coordinator of Let Them Play CA, said student athletes are tired of waiting.
“We have waited and watched for over 10 months while our California youth is suffering,” Hensley said in a statement.
“Over 40 states have let their children play sports safely, and all the data collected shows that these sports succeeded in providing healthy activities for our children while not spreading COVID-19. It is time that we as adults stand up for our children and get sports back for them.”
Brad Hensley, also a Let Them Play cofounder, said competitive sports are necessary for the psychological and physical wellbeing of sudents.
“Depression and suicide are only growing because of the lockdown and ban on sports and activities,” Hensley said in a statement. “Most importantly, the data we have from California and the data we’ve collected from all the other states that played youth sports show that it can be done safely.”