San Diego County is currently under the Red Tier of the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system. And while that means tighter restrictions on local businesses and other entities, the designation is also having a significant impact on club and youth sports.
In short, young athletes are allowed to practice and take part in socially distanced drills, but they’re still not allowed to play competitively.
“The physical aspect is there, but the emotional aspect, the anxiety aspect now is getting a little tiresome on not just the players, but also the families too," said David Banks.
Banks is a former professional player with the San Diego Sockers, and now leads the Nott’s Forest Football Club. The club has about 350 registered players ages 8 to 19.
Recently, the club sent out an email to parents thanking them for their patience and vigilance. The letter expressed disappointment in the state’s refusal to consider reinstating competitive sports, and not acknowledging safety protocols being taken by the club.
Since players were allowed to begin socially distanced practice in late April, Nott’s Forest has taken safety precautions that include designated drop off and pick up points at the club’s practice facilities at Hickman Field in Kearny Mesa.
Every player must have their temperature taken before getting out of the car. They must wear face masks until stepping on to their designated field. Coaches must wear facial coverings at all times.
Most parents are confident safety protocols being taken would allow for safe competition.
“They need to be active, they need to be around their peers and we should be able to make those decisions locally, based on what we think is best for our kids,” said Melisa McCloskey, whose 12-year-old son plays with Nott’s Forest.
“It’s frustrating to the parents that we can’t move on to the next step. There’s no one really willing to listen to us and say, ‘Hey, let's evaluate this based on the merits of what they’re doing and let them move forward,’” said parent Mark McPherson.
Meanwhile, the club and league’s board of directors have embarked on a so-called “Let Us Play” campaign, encouraging parents and athletes to reach out to local officials and voice their opinions.
“Use social media to create a groundswell of support, and stay focused on keeping our kids safe,” says the email sent to parents.
“We’re requesting kids to get on to the Facebook, Face-Tube, all that, and just blast it. As much as they can about the anxiety they’re feeling because they’re not allowed to play right now,” said Banks.