Student-athletes participate in Let Them Play rally, call for sports reopening

Amy Wang, Web Editor

Parents and students donned Westview gear to show support for a return of high school sports. Masks were mandatory for rally members, and roughly a hundred people turned out to show support. Photo by Julia Dailard.

On Jan. 15, student-athletes and parents rallied together to show state officials just how passionate they were about returning to their sports. Hoisting black and gold signs and cheering as passing cars honked in solidarity, many students were dressed in sports gear that they had not been able to wear since last March. 

The Let Them Play rally at the four-way intersection in front of the main Westview roundabout was a part of a larger, statewide movement coordinated by coaches, student-athletes and parents. There were similar rallies across California, including ones at Torrey Pines, San Marcos, Mt. Carmel, and Granite Hills high schools.

Despite the stay-at-home order still in place in California, more than 100 participants showed up, hoping to “stand up, support, and rally for sports to return,” as was stated on the many internet flyers posted before the event. The rally itself was not school-sanctioned and happened just off of Westview’s grounds. This has sparked concern from Athletic Director Steve McLaughlin, especially due current stay-at-home order.

“I just wish it had happened at a different time when we weren’t currently in a stay-at-home order. Right now it’s very hard for the athletic department to get involved since everything is so restrictive,” McLaughlin said. “I admire the students having a voice but they also need to do it strategically. If parents and students want to do that, awesome, I just don’t want us to go in the opposite direction of the way that we want to go.”

 Despite the lockdown, many of the students there were motivated by their connections to school sports, as well as the opportunities that had disappeared due to the spread of COVID-19. Playing and being watched is one of the only ways student-athletes can be scouted for college, so a lack of competitive events has been extremely damaging to the prospects of many hopeful players. Rally attendee James Fordham (12), a football player, went because of this reasoning.

“Many states this year have already had sports seasons,” Fordham said. “A lot of players feel as though their chances of getting recruited are slipping away.”

However, even without recruiting prospects, the loss of a chance to play a final year in high school has been especially hard for many seniors, said rally participant Scotty Krysl (12), a basketball player hoping to get a final season in before college. This loss, coupled with the lack of clarity that has come with the decision-making concerning sports reopenings, has rankled many students.

“We wanted to make sure there is a voice for all the student-athletes,” Krysl said. “Not just the head of CIF or the board of PUSD.”

Like Krysl, Fordham went to the rally with the goal of amplifying student voices.

“I feel that the point of this rally is to get the attention of the local government,” Fordham said. “Or at the very least be given answers to the questions about how things are going to work that we are asking.”

Many ralliers pointed to the nearly 40 other states which have allowed other high school students to play a football season as precedence enough for California to do the same. At the, due to state guidelines, distanced practices and conditioning are allowed, but official competitions are not.

Rally attendees also expressed concern over the mental toll of quarantine.

“It’s very hard to study all day and have nothing fun to look forward to,” Krysl said. “Having [a sport] is necessary for the mental health of students. Playing was something that was really important to me, and it kept me going in school.”

Likewise, Fordham said that sports has seemingly been an afterthought in the overall reopening plan.

“I would say a lot of people are annoyed that school is desperately trying to get back in-person while sports are being left aside,” Fordham said. “Sports are a part of high school, but a lot of  people either want everything or nothing to come back, and we aren’t happy with that.”

Despite this, students are willing—happy, even—to make certain compromises to prevent the risk of COVID-19. 

“We just wanted to show PUSD how much each athlete needs their sport,” Krysl said. “We don’t care about fans (although it’d be nice). We just want one last senior year season.”

Fordham echoed this sentiment.

“[We] are okay with shortened seasons,” he said. “We just want some semblance of sports again.”