Basketball, softball and other sports are ready to make a comeback

First a trickle, then a stream, now a flood. That’s what it’s been like watching sports flow back across Long Beach over the last few months, with next week signaling an unprecedented pandemic high-water mark.

Competitive sports at the youth/high school level were banned from March 13, 2020, until January, although practices and conditioning workouts were still being held. Over the last two months, football, cross country, and water polo have returned and been able to hold abbreviated seasons.

This week, things get a little nuts. As of today, the following sports will be happening simultaneously as Long Beach, and the rest of Southern California, attempt to hold a 10-month high school sports season in two months: football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, track and field, volleyball, wrestling, badminton, swimming, lacrosse, golf, and tennis.

“It’s a lot!” said Moore League secretary Lisa Ulmer, who has been the Long Beach Unified School District’s point person in constructing new schedules for all these sports.

Just a few months ago, youth sports teams weren’t allowed to play catch without sanitizing balls in between throws and now, most high schools in the city will be participating in 30-40 athletic events on a weekly basis for the next two months. It’s a dizzying acceleration.

“Just as quickly as everything shut down, things are starting up full speed,” said Long Beach Poly girls’ athletic director Crystal Irving.

Coaches and administrators have largely expressed happiness for kids who will be getting sports seasons back, but there’s plenty of stress too. Some high schools such as Lakewood High don’t currently have a field available as it’s under construction.

At the collegiate level, Long Beach State is in full swing with the Dirtbags at this point, along with softball, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball, track and field and water polo. At LBCC this week, the Vikings have been allowed back on campus for conditioning workouts.

School sports aren’t the only ones returning, either. The city’s youth baseball fields have been packed since the Health Department granted them permission to host Little League and Cal Ripken League youth seasons as well.

The last frontier is fans. While the high school and youth events have been open for parents of athletes—for transportation as much as spectating—the general public hasn’t had much of a chance to see games in person. Last week’s California Department of Public Health guideline modifications open that possibility, and Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee said he’s hoping to have fans at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field in a reduced capacity for Dirtbag games soon.

In other words, after 13 months of waiting, you might be able to buy a ticket and a beer and watch sports in person in Long Beach, sooner than later.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.
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