This week will see a sight both familiar and completely new: the Long Beach Unified School District’s high schools will take the field for football practice. But while the dog days of summer usually see hundreds of student-athletes on the field, these practices will look a little different.
“Our conversation a couple weeks ago about restarting was, we’re going to follow the CIF guidelines and make sure it’s safe,” said Moore League secretary Lisa Ulmer. Long Beach Poly, Wilson, Lakewood, and other league schools are on the field this week mostly for conditioning drills. According to state guidelines they’re not allowed to have physical contact between athletes and they’re not allowed to use equipment–which means no footballs.
“A lot of coaches are taking a full day or two just to get together for paperwork,” said Ulmer. “There’s guidelines from the CIF, from the school district–we’ve added some language about COVID-19 just to make sure parents know that this is optional.”
Before practice begins each day, athletes will have to confirm that they don’t have any symptoms of COVID-19 (or any other illness). Masks will have to be worn at all times except while running or actively doing drills. In addition to conditioning drills like running and jumping jacks, teams are permitted to practice plays as long as a ball isn’t changing hands. Teams are also encouraged to only do “body weight” type weightlifting like push-ups, until safe protocols for cleaning weight rooms have been established.
“Some people have asked about the uptick and are we going to close down again,” said Ulmer. “Right now, today, we’re okay. Kids are wearing masks, we’re taking precautions. Right now it’s no equipment, distancing, and conditioning activities. Some kids haven’t done anything in four months so we need to ease them back into it.”
Not all Moore League schools are choosing to go back. While the Jackrabbits and Bruins were on the field Monday, Millikan coach Romeo Pellum put out a statement through the team’s social media channels stating that he’s choosing to not hold workouts for the next two weeks.
“As much as we all want to get back to football it is my job as the head coach and as a person to consider and care about the well-being of our players, coaches, and all of our families,” wrote Pellum. “I’ve decided to suspend all in-person football activities…COVID-19 numbers are spiking and I’m aware a good amount of our families have someone in their household with underlying conditions.”
Looming large over all of this summer activity is the July 20 date that the CIF State office has said will be when they announce the sports schedule for the upcoming school year. The office is narrowing down to two options: one would essentially see the schedule play out as normal, with the understanding that football and other fall sports could be later delayed or canceled. The other plan would see essentially no varsity contests statewide for the rest of 2020, with a compacted Fall/Winter/Spring season fit into the January-June window.
“Everything’s a bit of a waiting game until then,” said Ulmer, who said the LBUSD schools were filling out surveys from the CIF State office about how they’d like to proceed.