High school sports practices open, close, open again

It’s been a difficult two weeks for fulltime sportswriters with part-time procrastination habits. Last Monday, we shot Long Beach Post editor Steve Lowery a message: “Hey Steve, high school sports practices are opening up, we’ll get you a story soon.”

Life intervened, work piled up, and then before we knew it, two days later, we had to send him another message: “Hey Steve, high school sports practices have been shut back down, we’ll get you a story soon.”

A car breakdown, a plumbing incident, and then before we knew it, two days later, we had to send him yet another message: “Hey Steve, high school sports practices are opening back up again, we’ll get you a story soon.”

So, three reversals and a week and a half later, here we are: a story.

In our opinion? It’s much ado about nothing. There have been some angry adults posting about how the practices should close back down on Facebook. There have been a lot of kids on Instagram talking about how happy they are to get to see each other again.

At the end of the day, the practices are glorified conditioning sessions. Athletes meet at a local high school football field or pool in order to exercise while staying six feet apart from each other. It’s no different from what most of these kids were doing at parks or in garage weight rooms for the last four months, except now they’ll have adult supervision to make sure they’re following the health guidelines.

We went to football practices at four schools and were impressed with the job that coaches were doing of making sure kids had masks on, that they weren’t bumping chests or high-fiving. It was weird to see a practice with no football—some schools were even having quarterbacks and receivers practice their timing by pretending to throw and catch an invisible ball.

The most important thing, to us and to the coaches, was that it was meaningful to the kids to get together, to have some structure and some social interaction, even while distanced.

“For a lot of us, this program is a family, and it’s great to be with our family after so many months,” said Poly defensive lineman Donovan Poe. “We’d all rather be here working out than at home by ourselves or just being outside doing nothing.”

LBUSD high schools superintendent Jay Camerino said he’s aware that not everyone agrees with the district’s decision to let the high schools continue on with the conditioning, and stressed that more reversals may come in the future. For now, they’re continuing to follow the advice of the Long Beach Health Department and trying to do what’s best for their students.

“We’re worried about what’s best for the kids, and we’re going to follow our city, local health, and the CIF-SS guidelines,” he said. “This whole thing is complicated–you try to do the right thing for each given moment, but you also accept that it changes.”

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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.