‘Christmas has come early’: Let Them Play reaches settlement, high school sports to resume indoors

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The Latest (9:47 p.m.): The California Department of Public Health released guidance for high school sports, putting them at the same level of requirements for collegiate sports.

“Today’s update specifies that teams can return to competition earlier than otherwise authorized under the previous guidance, which was issued on February 19, 2021, but only if they adhere to the stricter requirements in place for college teams,” said the CDPH in a press release.

teams can return to competition only if they adhere to the stricter requirements in place for college teams, which include rigorous testing requirements around each competition, following contact tracing protocols, and coordination with local health authorities.

California Department of Public Health

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KTXL) — Youth sports, both indoor and outdoor, can resume in California.

Just two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed for outdoor sports to begin practicing and playing games.

Let Them Play, a grassroots organization based in San Diego that includes hundreds of coaches and thousands of student-athletes, along with a lawsuit filed in San Diego County against the state, has paved the way for indoor sports to return.

The group suing the state announced Thursday morning they had reached a settlement deal that will allow indoor sports like basketball, volleyball, wrestling and competitive cheer to begin their seasons under the same guidelines outdoor sports were given only a week ago.

“Today, for all high school athletes in California, Christmas has come early,” said San Diego high school football coach Marlon Gardinera, who joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

As part of their settlement with the state, the new guidelines allow kids to play all sports as long as the caseloads per county are 14 or under per 100,000 cases.

As of Thursday, that covers all but five counties in the state and all but two in the Sac-Joaquin Section, which could reach that number by this coming Tuesday.

“As a result, kids throughout California will have a little bit more hope and a little bit more opportunity to thrive through sports,” Gardinera said.

“This will always be the proudest moment of my coaching career because it has nothing to do with sports,” said Torrey Pines High School football coach Ron Gladnick. “It has everything to do with kids. Wanting to see kids joyful again, wanting to see kids running around with their friends, wanting to see kids have high school memories.”

Along with the lawsuit, the 62,000-member Let Them Play grassroots organization and more than 6,000 high school coaches appear to have made a difference in just two short months.

The final decision will still have to come down to county health departments and school districts.

“And I would ask those local authorities that have the ability to let them play, please, let them play,” said Brad Hensley with the grassroots organization.

The California Interscholastic Federation, which serves as the governing body for high school sports in the state, released a statement regarding Thursday’s announcement.

It is our understanding that the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) will be updating its Youth Sports Guidance based on a settlement agreement reached in a litigation matter pending in San Diego County.  It is further our understanding that the settlement agreement is not yet available for review.  We are therefore reserving comment on the terms of the agreement until it is finalized.  Until such time, it is our understanding that the current CDPH Youth Sports Guidance remains in effect pending the publication of any updated CDPH guidance.

Rebecca Brutlag, California Interscholastic Sports spokesperson

Governor Newsom also said he wanted to review the details of the settlement before commenting.

“It just feels so good to see what should be taking place is the youth playing their sports,” said Tina Watts. “It’s the right thing, so I am very excited and ecstatic to see this happen.”

Watts’ daughter, Alexa, is a sophomore standout on Rocklin High School’s volleyball team. Her brother, Richie, is the senior quarterback for Thunder football.

“She was very excited for all the other sports and for her brother. But yeah, now today is just a really good day,” their mother told FOX40.

A large part of the settlement revolves around COVID-19 testing for student-athletes. Coaches involved in the movement say they have set up a way for all 800,000 high school athletes to get tested with no out-of-pocket costs. They’ll be able to do it 48 hours before games and competitions.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

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