About 20 student-athletes and their parents gathered with signs and masks along El Camino Real in front of Sequoia High School in Redwood City on Friday, Jan. 15, to plead with officials to allow them to compete again. The start date of high school sports has been pushed back repeatedly as officials respond to changing state and county rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was one of a series of statewide protests under the name "Let Them Play" held Friday at 4 p.m. to advocate for the return of youth sports.
Becky Cordero, one of the Sequoia event's organizers and a parent of a senior who plays volleyball at Woodside High School, said she wants to see athletes safely restart play.
"I strongly believe we can do this safely while at the same time getting back into sports," she said, noting not being able to play has been "really rough" on her daughter. "I'm a marriage and family therapist, so I'm seeing firsthand how it's affecting (students') mental and physical health."
Organizers invited students from Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Woodside, Eastside Prep, Sacred Heart Preparatory and Woodside Priory schools to the Sequoia event.
Earlier this month, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the state's governing body for high school sports, said the soonest athletes could return to competition would be Jan. 25.
CIF said girls volleyball, cheerleading, cross country, football, water polo and other sports will start their seasons in January and run into April. Cross country is the only season that can begin while San Mateo County is in the purple COVID-19 tier, which signifies widespread transmission risk. The county has to improve to the orange tier (moderate risk) to start football and volleyball competition.
"We fully support the safe return to play for our athletes and we've been working hard to get this done since last March," said M-A Athletic Director Paul Snow in a Jan. 14 email. "We are hopeful that we'll have some sports starting to compete soon and other athletes will be able to practice with their teammates until restrictions ease up. We want to stress the importance of masking up and keeping socially distant, the better we are at this, the sooner we get back to the playing surface!"
Back in the fall, CIF said seasons would resume in December, but the starting date has been pushed back.
Some district teams have been holding physical conditioning, practice, skill-building and training outdoors at 6 feet apart, which will be the case at Palo Alto and Gunn high schools starting Jan. 19.
Locally, another "Let Them Play" rally was planned to take place at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara.