Emma Newman staff writer
Benji Maman staff writer
Fall sports returned to school to practice for the upcoming season the weekend of Oct. 24.
Director of District Athletics Tim Ellis began preparing to resume practices last June. With precautionary measures to prevent the spread of disease, the teams are now able to practice in-person through distanced practices.
Ellis decided that now would be the time to resume practices because the students needed the time to get into shape, both physically and emotionally, before competition season begins.
“[The] last thing we wanted to have was to be in a situation where we’re gonna compete and our student athletes [are] not in proper condition,” Ellis said. “Plus, for the social-emotional part of it, I think [after being] cooped up for so long, they want to get out and young athletes want to run around and do things.”
In order to safely resume practice, coaches keep practicing groups small, maintain social distancing, require masks, screen for fevers and provide hand sanitizer regularly. Ellis also looked at facilities to divide into specific areas for each sport.
To avoid as much interaction between athletes as possible, Ellis designated gates for each sport in addition to providing the students with the proper protective equipment (PPE) and creating pods for the teams. After securing these parts of the plan, sports programs waited for county approval. The county released protocols a month ago, specifically from the LA County Department of Public Health.
After receiving approval to return, Ellis had to make sure that students, teachers and coaches felt safe enough to practice.
“It’s been a collaborative plan with everybody involved,” Ellis said. “We want to make sure that when we got back on the fields that everybody was safe.”
This wasn’t an issue for coaches, though, who were “excited” to return to their jobs.
“Coaches are like athletes in terms [of] once you coach, you want to coach like an athlete wants to play,” Ellis said.
Some athletes were also enthusiastic about returning, including football player senior Jeremy Shuman.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Jeremy Shuman said. “It was pretty cool to get back on campus for the first time in probably a year, or how long it’s been. I think getting back on campus and getting back on the field brings back memories of football and it’s making me want to play even more.”
After meeting up with his teammates at the park and practicing football, senior Max Menache is also happy that he can finally go to more complex practices with his team, and officially train and practice with them.
“I’ve met with the guys unofficially, and that was great,” Menache said. “This is just a step closer to the season. I’m excited to be on the field. It’s not the perfect circumstances, but I’ll take it,”
Even with all of these safety measures and the approval of students, sports teams can only start practicing, not competing.
“A lot of people say we’re bringing back sports, [but] we can’t have competitions,” Ellis said. “We can’t get together. We can’t even scrimmage amongst ourselves right now. All we’re doing is bringing our student athletes back to be in a situation where they can start to work out, start to train, start to get some of that physical shape back”
Resuming practices is “always scary,” according to Ellis, so he coordinated his plans with athletic directors from Culver City High School, Santa Monica High School and El Segundo High School. The schools talked about their plans two or three times a week to avoid any missteps.
“The [last] thing that we want to do, and why we waited a lot longer than a lot of schools have, [is] I didn’t want to open up in a situation and have something happen that we had to turn around and shut down,” Ellis said. “That was the last thing that we wanted.”
As a result of all of the safety precautions being taken, Shuman finds that the practices so far have been “terrible.”
“I really want to get out there, be with all of my friends, throw the ball around, just back to normal,” Shuman said. “We’re far from it so it’s really hard not being able to just walk on the field. You have to go through a whole bunch of tests, you have to fill out some sheets, they have to take your temperature. It’s a hassle but we’re making do with what we can.”
Even with the difficulties of COVID-19, Shuman is optimistic about the potential to play the sport he loves.
“I can’t tell you when but I’m at least trying to…really just play with intensity and heart and just not give up on any play,” Shuman said. “Our coach said the other day, ‘You only get out of it what you put into it. So if you want to be great, put a lot into it.”