Q&A: How will LAUSD coaches prepare for return to school?

Trent Cornelius, the LAUSD director of athletics.
Trent Cornelius is the LAUSD director of athletics.

No one is going to be more important in trying to help resume high school sports in the Los Angeles Unified School District than Trent Cornelius, the district’s director of athletics.

A former basketball player at Reseda Cleveland, Cornelius is the person LAUSD will consult regarding its sports program as it attempts to navigate the uncertain challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. LAUSD makes up most of the schools in the City Section. Athletics are supposed to return on Dec. 14, according to the new sports calendar, but that’s only if conditions on the ground allow it. Online classes begin Aug. 18.

Cornelius answered questions Friday about trying to move forward.

What are the chances LAUSD coaches will be allowed to work with students before December?

“At this time, they will have to work remotely with students. If anything changes in the district or county guidelines, they may get an opportunity before December. At this time, it will be Dec. 14. And even then, it’s still based on county health guidelines. Facilities have to be opened for sports to resume in LAUSD. I know there has been a task force put together in the district that is working in conjunction with county health, and they will provide guidelines. It will not be athletic-driven. It will be based on the L.A. County Health Department.”


What are your recommendations for parents hoping to keep their sons and daughters in shape if they can’t work out with coaches present?

“I think it’s important for parents and coaches, along with P.E. departments, to provide some well-structured home workouts for kids to maintain strength and conditioning. General fitness can be maintained in remote environments.”

LAUSD is returning to classes with remote learning on Aug. 18. What is the reality about sports returning?

“I think for sports in LAUSD to return, we’re really dependent on everyone in L.A. County taking the advice of our doctors and medical experts to get the pandemic more under control. As those numbers improve, I believe it will have a ripple effect for how realistic it will be for us to play sports. When they’re trending in the wrong direction, it’s going to have a ripple effect on everybody. We need people to look at the big picture. Playing sports is a big part of kids’ psychological and physical well being. Schools play a large part in filling that void. Not every family can afford to pay for club sports. Schools give access to sports. It’s really important we can get back to sports for that reason, and I believe we will.”

The school board cut the school police budget by $25 million. Will security be available for sports events?

“Our police department is phenomenal. We will definitely have a safe environment for all our athletic activities once we are allowed to resume. I know the budgets may be changing, but I know the security of our kids and community is most important. No one is going to let it lapse.”

The new CIF sports calendar will have athletes, coaches and parents pulling double duty or more, and they’re hoping to make it work beginning in December.

What will be the role of coaches in a remote learning environment?

“The first thing all coaches need to understand is we’re in a pandemic. Coaches have to be careful with having kids do workouts until making sure kids have been cleared [physically and academically]. They still need to get athletes cleared before they schedule remote workouts. Any coach that is trying online tryouts or workouts should only involve kids who are cleared.”

The CIF is allowing athletes to compete simultaneously with club teams. Will LAUSD impose stricter guidelines?

“I don’t anticipate being more restrictive than the CIF rule passed, but we have to keep an eye on conflicts of interest because when seasons actually start, our coaches will not be able to receive compensation from any source outside the district to teach their sports. We’re evaluating how to prevent coaches from having conflicts of interest during the official CIF sport when they are running a club team and trying to charge fees to players. Every school district will now have to communicate with coaches if they are affiliates with a club team. They can’t charge members of the high school team that chose to participate in [a] club during the season of the sport. It is a conflict of interest.”