After months of waiting for good news, Long Beach’s high school basketball, volleyball, wrestling and badminton coaches got the call they were waiting for on Thursday afternoon. The city’s health department has officially greenlit the return of youth indoor sports, provided that teams and athletes are testing as required by the California Department of Public Health.
“It’s good to go, if the schools can field the teams we will do all of those sports,” said LBUSD high school superintendent Jay Camerino. “As much as we can have open, we’ll have open. We’re sorry it took so long, but we’re going for it.”
With all other sports back in action or preparing to start their seasons, there had been growing frustration that the indoor sports had been left out, especially since the CDPH had allowed their return a few weeks ago. The holdup in Long Beach was waiting for conflicting documentation of gyms’ occupancy to be sorted, so the reduced capacity numbers could be certified. Now they have been, and practices can begin as soon as Monday.
“Like everything in the last six months, we can’t do anything then all of a sudden we can do a lot,” said Moore League secretary Lisa Ulmer, who said the league is prepared to wade into the tangle of gym time conflicts with all sports going simultaneously. “We’ve had our schedules pretty much in place, so we’re ready. We just want the kids to be able to get out there safely as quickly as possible.”
Among the interested parties was the Long Beach Poly boys’ basketball team and their star, McDonald’s All-American Peyton Watson, who was so happy at the news he ran outside to scream and celebrate. Watson is the top high school athlete in the city this year and hasn’t played a game since Poly was eliminated from the playoffs last year; he’s joined by a talent-packed roster.
“I’m excited, the Lamborghini has been in the garage too long, it’s all washed up and ready to go,” said Poly coach Shelton Diggs. “We need a quick test drive.”
Wilson girls’ basketball coach Erin Carey was thrilled as well. Her team won a CIF Southern Section championship last year but hasn’t been able to get their rings or to practice together indoors since.
“We’re feeling so much better than we were 20 minutes ago,” said Carey. “We’ve been in a holding pattern with zero info, it’s been a running joke ‘We’ll start practice tomorrow.’ I asked our AD if he was punking me and he had to show me the message. Our girls are so excited, you have no idea.”
Like all the other sports that have already returned, there will be major modifications and compromises for the indoor sports that are returning. Games will be played on odd days, with boys’ volleyball moving a chunk of their schedule to Saturdays to accommodate limited gym space. Teams will also have to test weekly, and until Los Angeles County drops into the orange tier, spectators will not be allowed; when that orange tier classification happens (which could be as early as next weekend), spectators will be allowed at 10% capacity.
There’s also been challenges putting together some of the schedules. While basketball, volleyball, and badminton have come together, there’s a question of how many wrestling teams will be fielded and if it will be enough to hold a league schedule. There’s also the question of additional sports being classified as “indoor,” such as swimming.
While outdoor swimming is a purple tier sport, only one of the LBUSD’s pools (Cabrillo) is outside. Swimming indoors is considered an indoor sport and will require regular testing just like basketball and the other gym sports. The wrinkle for swimming is that while teams will be able to train at their schools’ facilities as long as they test, they’re going to hold all Moore League swim competitions at Cabrillo this year to allow fans even in the event that LA County doesn’t reach the orange tier.