Students in five athletic activities at three high schools in the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be permitted to return to their respective campuses for conditioning workouts beginning on Sept. 21, the district confirmed.
It will be the first time since March 12 that students at Santa Barbara High, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos will be on campus. The schools were closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Students in football, cross country, volleyball, water polo and sideline cheer will be allowed to engage in workouts “that will be modified in accordance with the guidance provided by the Santa Barbara County Public Health and CIF, with a focus on skills training and conditioning,” Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said.
“Coaches will need to be tested prior to starting. Athletic directors and principals at each site will communicate sports-specific details.”
Guidelines at the training sessions include physical distancing, stable cohorts and no shared equipment; the workouts will be for conditioning and skill development only; and all workouts must be done outdoors.
Football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo are the sports that will be contested in the fall under the two-season calendar devised by the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body of high school sports.
The training for winter and spring sports teams will begin some time in October, according the district.
Girls water polo and boys volleyball, normally played in the winter and spring, respectively, were added to the revamped fall season.
Competition in volleyball and water polo is scheduled to start in December, while cross country and football kick off in January of 2021. The first football game is scheduled for January 8, 2021.
The school district didn’t release a formal announcement about the Phase 1 return of athletics following its board meeting last Tuesday. That left athletic directors confused.
“We sat in the dark until Thursday waiting for confirmation from the district,” said one athletic director.
They received the confirmation with the addendum: all coaches (on campus and walk-ons at all levels) need to be COVID tested.
“That’s a lot of coaches,” said an AD.
In most sports, the three public high schools field teams at frosh/soph, junior varsity and varsity levels. Varsity football teams alone have several coaches on a staff.
Given a date to circle on the calendar, coaches are excited to finally see their student athletes in person. They haven’t seen them face to face since mid-March, before campuses were closed and the spring sports season canceled due to rapid spread of the coronavirus.
“I am excited to get the chance to be back on the field with our players,” said San Marcos football coach Jason Fowle. “They have been putting in a lot of time and effort to prepare mentally and physically for this opportunity.
“We understand that there is a lot more that needs to happen before we can be fully operational in a football sense. But it’s a first step toward a positive outcome.
“I believe that being together in a team setting again, albeit physically distanced, will help our young people to establish a critical life balance — so important to their age and overall development, with regard to increasingly difficult socio-emotional, psychological, and physiological demands during these uncertain times.”
Santa Barbara Athletic Director Todd Heil noted that “not all conditioning workouts will be starting on Sept. 21 due to the schedule the head coach might create. While it is true a specific coach can’t participate in the in-person workouts until they have received their negative COVID-19 test result, that doesn’t mean the team can’t work out with other cleared coaches starting next week.”
Santa Barbara High girls volleyball coach Ariana Garner said she’s looking forward to seeing her players “start interacting and bonding in a safe and controlled environment.”
Volleyball teams are not allowed to practice in a gym, and Santa Barbara doesn’t have sand volleyball courts on campus like San Marcos and Dos Pueblos. But Garner said they’ll make the best of it.
“At this point, I’ll take what we can get,” she said.
Heil said all student athletes will train on campus due to “strict protocols in place for screening all student athletes.”
On the Dons football team training on the renovated Peabody Stadium, he said: “We’re still waiting for the track to be completed, so once that is done, we will be having student-athletes working out in Peabody Stadium. In the meantime, we will be utilizing other fields on and around campus.”
San Marcos girls water polo coach Chuckie Roth is looking forward to getting his team back in the pool for training.
“We have zoomed, read books, and compared workouts from afar,” he said. “It will be great to be back on the deck soon.”
Roth, who also coaches the San Marcos girls swimming team and the women’s water polo and swim teams at SBCC, said the school closures caused by the pandemic has created his longest break from coaching in several years.
“Before, my longest break of coaching was 11 years ago when I took a trip to Indonesia. I had a three-week break from coaching,” he said. So, yes, the sixth-month barrier, which was just a couple days ago, is the longest I have not coached.”