We’ve got some ideas on how Long Beach high school and youth sports can get going again as safely as possible. Obviously these aren’t practices we want to see implemented permanently. These are just possible steps to hopefully someday getting back to sports as usual.
Take It Outside
The smartest minds in the world don’t agree on much when it comes to how COVID-19 spreads, but most epidemiologists agree that there is a difference in how the virus transmits indoors and outdoors. Some studies show that confined spaces and even air conditioning can increase the chance of spread. Being outside is a much lower risk, especially for young people who rely of exercise and activity for both mental and physical health.
The Long Beach Unified School District high schools and local youth leagues should take advantage of the long summer days and the wide open spaces to get these student athletes active again. From the acres of green grass at Cabrillo High, to the parks and running trails throughout Long Beach, this city has so much room for activities as long as everyone shares.
Leadership from the city health officials is imperative as the city shares its space again. Only then will information flow freely, and we can avoid the false-start that happened last week.
The traditionally indoor sports like basketball, badminton, and even volleyball can also find ways to hold practices and contests outside. That could help speed up the process of getting everyone back to practice inside the gym.
Working In Shifts
Usually, baseball fans know the season is about to start when pitchers and catchers report for spring training. The same can be said for National Football League minicamps, and neither of them look like high school practice. That’s because professional leagues work out individual groups within the team before bringing everyone together for practice as the season gets closer.
The days of five-hour football practice are gone. However, the position coaches could take turns on the field with each individual group in five one-hour sessions. It’s like NFL minicamp. The kids still get their exercise, the coaches still get time to specifically instruct, and the reduced risk of less contact is always a positive.
Similar concerns about weight room usage can be alleviated with this approach. Having the equipment outside with smaller groups participating at an appropriate distance could work. St. Anthony High School has put an outdoor weight room area next to Clark Field under a tent, and other schools have the space to set up something like that.
Obviously we all want the entire team together, but why not be better safe than sorry when the season itself is still uncertain?
It’s A League Game, Smokey
Every restart is going to require green lights from a variety of levels. That will start with the CDC and other California officials before the CIF State or CIF Southern Section consider a workable schedule. Then each county, school district, and city health official will need to agree that it’s safe to host contests on campuses again.
Cutting nonleague games off the front of each schedule could shorten this process while keeping it safe. Only LBUSD/Moore League teams would play each other during the regular season, and each event would have the citywide guidelines to follow. Everyone would be on the same page.
Some college conferences are already proposing this as a way to help standardize cleaning and safety practices. It should be implemented for the high schools this year, or at least for the fall and winter schedules. The spring season is too far away to consider now.
“I’ve talked to a lot of our guys and they all seemed really comfortable with the fact that we may have the regular season pushed back and we may only play the Moore League,” Wilson senior receiver Nick Timko said. “We’ll have more time to train, and for some of us it jumps us to the games that really matter and count. The Moore League. It’s not just bragging rights over the other teams, but it’s our playoff spot that really matters.”
Really Ties The City Together
It’s impossible to imagine all of the friends and family involved in a Long Beach Poly and Lakewood girls’ volleyball match being able to stay socially distant in any high school gym. The seating alone wouldn’t be able to handle that many people.
However, Long Beach State University and Long Beach City College both have larger facilities that could host Moore League contests.
If high school soccer teams can play at Veterans Memorial Stadium, it will be easier for them to distance than it would be on a high school field. If high school basketball and volleyball teams can use the Walter Pyramid, it could be easier to bring fans in since 1/4 capacity of the Pyramid would be about the maximum capacity at a high school gym. The bottom line is that 1,000 people in a high school gym is a health hazard. That same group in the Pyramid could be achieved with adequate social distancing.
The athletic departments from both LBSU and LBCC seem amenable to the idea.
“I love when our community comes on our campus,” Long Beach State athletics director Andy Fee said. “Any time you can brings students onto a college campus is a good thing, whether or not they play sports. If public health officials and university administration would allow us to host those events, I would be for it as long as it’s safe.”
Now For Something Completely Different
Cross country is a good example of where creativity and flexibility will be required if 2020-21 is going to see a season. The Moore League’s packed cluster meets see five or more teams gathering at one location for all four races.
No one is going to get a green light from health officials any time soon, so more spaced out dual meets would likely be free to compete much sooner. Two teams could stay socially distant before and after a race more easily. That would require the schools to schedule different events, but we hope they’re open to those options in order to get kids back competing again.