Youth sports advocates rally at high schools across California, calling for resumption of competition

Parents, coaches and youth advocates on Friday rallied at high schools across California to urge the state to allow youth sports to return as soon as possible.

"We're tired. We're tired of waiting on a system and a government that is failing us and most importantly failing our kids," said Brad Hensley is co-founder of the Facebook group, Let Them Play CA, which has grown to nearly 34 thousand members in just two weeks.

"I think the last straw was when we got the color coded tier system that basically made it virtually impossible for the vast majority of sports really to ever play," he said.

Right now, state guidelines only allow young athletes to train and condition, with specific rules for each sport, but no competition play. While some schools and districts have shut it down completely, Foothill High School Baseball coach Raymond Lopez says they're lucky to be on the field, period.

"I've had parents tell me that my kids depressed, he's just so depressed he can't hang out with his friends. So for me, it's that whole emotional side - like these kids have lost a whole year of friendship, of learning life lessons through sports," said Lopez.

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The "Let Them Play" group says it has data to support a safe return to sports. It's from coaches who they say have been keeping track of nearly 20,000 athletes during the pandemic. Less than 3% tested positive, with just nine cases coming from workouts on a school campus.

"35 other states have played football. 40 other states have played youth sports. Not one reported serious incident of a child going into a hospital because of COVID, let alone suicide," said Hensley.

These parents say their job is to protect their kids from more than just sickness - but also depression, anxiety and so on.

"It's been the same line since March that now is not the time," said Deborah Najm of Orange. "In Orange County if you're 65 and older you can get the vaccine, so the time is now, they need to play."

Rallies were scheduled to be held at more than 140 locations across California.

Organizers said they were simply hoping for a conversation with Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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