Orange County Awaits Return to Competitive Sports

February 22, 2021 Updated: February 22, 2021

High school coaches say teens are eager to return to the playing fields following the recent lifting of a state ban that could soon allow sports to resume in the region.

However, Orange County athletes might have to wait a little longer to participate in the long-awaited competitions.

California revised its guidelines Feb 19 to allow competitive sports in counties with relatively low rates of COVID-19 cases. The standard, which takes effect Feb. 26, allows for a resumption of “outdoor high-contact sports” in counties that reach an adjusted daily average of 14 new cases per 100,000 residents. Orange County’s rate is 20.7.

Chad Johnson, head football coach at Mission Viejo High School, told The Epoch Times that his players are excited to resume playing.

“We saw these kids every single day, breaking down sometimes on Zoom, tearing up, getting emotional,” Johnson said. “Now that you’re able to have a season, obviously their spirits are lifted.”

During the early stages of school shutdowns last April, Mission Football players were not allowed on campus. The team maintained virtual practices online in a video game-style practice, where a quarterback would draw their play, and the players would map out their route.

“The majority of the kids their last high school game is their last game of their career, ever,” Johnson said. “And for those kids, I am so excited to play this season.”

Johnson said his players are having trouble with recruitment and receiving scholarships to colleges and universities because they do not have any recent playing time footage of the seniors to provide the recruiters.

The new rules negate the previous tier system for organized youth and adult sports.

There are currently 27 counties that meet the standard to allow school sports. Orange County is on its way to meeting that standard soon, according to Assembly Member Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel).

“Right now, Orange County is at 20. They get their new stats every Tuesday. They’re looking, hopefully, that the numbers are going to drop,” Davies told The Epoch Times Feb. 19.

“I can tell you that L.A. County and Riverside—they’re still fairly high, so they’re not going anywhere.”

Per the new guidelines, players in high-contact sports are encouraged to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, both during and post-season. The regular testing costs will be state-funded.

The ban on sport competition is subject to change at any time given the level of the CCP virus transmission in California.

Players are required to wear face coverings when on the sidelines and not participating in the activity. All coaches, staff, and fans must wear face coverings.

Fans are required to socially distance. For adult sports, spectators are not permitted to attend.

Teams are not allowed to participate in out-of-state games and tournaments.

Mission Viejo High School’s Johnson said reinstating school sports will help level the playing field for California athletes.

At least 40 other states have not banned their school sports, he said.

“Those college coaches simply went to the other 40 states to get their recruits because there was senior film to evaluate and watch, where the kids in this state, along with the other 10, didn’t have that opportunity,” Johnson said.

“A lot of these students count on scholarships to get to college because they don’t have the income or their parents don’t have the income to get them there.”

—With files from City News Service