Advertisement
Share

As LAUSD officials mull whether to continue postponing games, athletes are perplexed

Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr. huddles with his players during a timeout earlier this season.
Fairfax coach Reggie Morris Jr. huddles with his players during a timeout earlier this season. Sports competitions are on pause this week at LAUSD schools because of the COVID-19 surge.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Ryan Tripp is caught in a nightmare.

Like it was for most athletes, 2020 was rough for Tripp, now a junior playing basketball at Los Angeles Dorsey High. Stuck in the house as COVID-19 wiped out any hope for a season. Unable to so much as hoop at the local park.

When the Los Angeles Unified School District announced games would be postponed this week as the Omicron variant continues to surge, worry started to creep in again for Tripp. Worry that the break wouldn’t just stop at a week — that 2022 would be 2020, Part Two.

“I’m definitely getting flashbacks,” Tripp said. “It’s really disheartening, especially with people who are in 11th and 12th grade. It’s not too much time we have to make a change [in our careers] and actually do something.”

Advertisement

On Sunday night, the LAUSD sent an email to parents announcing the postponement of all games this week to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus. More than 63,000 students and staff in the district have tested positive.

The LAUSD is halting sports competitions this week because of the latest coronavirus surge.

But even without taking the court or field, winter athletes are sitting in several cramped classrooms for hours on end, with a switching array of classmates that by the end of the day accounts for possible exposure to hundreds.

Opinions are varied about the best course of action to curb the spread. Some, in particular, feel it’s strange that LAUSD classes are continuing as normal while games, in some cases lower-risk events, are postponed.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Ava Tibor, a sophomore at Woodland Hills El Camino Real. “Every single time the cases spike, I’ve seen the first thing LAUSD tries to do is stop athletics.”

Tripp and the rest of the Dorsey team are in quarantine and attending classes online this week after a teammate tested positive for the coronavirus, he said. He had a similar view of the break.

“Personally, I think it’s pointless, because they still want us to go to school,” Tripp said.

Shannon Haber, LAUSD’s chief communications officer, referred to the email sent last Sunday when asked for comment. The email stated the district would determine next steps by the end of the week.

Contrary to Tibor and Tripp, Van Nuys Birmingham soccer coach EB Madha welcomed the pause. Madha and three of his assistant coaches are recovering from the coronavirus, and many Birmingham players are sick, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense. Every single time the cases spike, I’ve seen the first thing LAUSD tries to do is stop athletics.”

El Camino Real sophomore Ava Tibor

Birmingham and El Camino Real are charter schools and could circumvent district rules by holding games against other non-LAUSD charter programs. In fact, their boys’ soccer teams had a much-anticipated rivalry game planned for Friday. However, the two sides elected to postpone it due to the spread of the virus.

“It’s a good time to take that break — I think it’s a smart thing to do,” Madha said. “Obviously we really want to play, but what’s the point of a rivalry if teams don’t have their best players?”

The pause might offer coaches a bit of breathing room. However, Zuofeng Zhang, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA, said the break would do little to slow the spread of the Omicron variant if student-athletes are still in classes.

“Why can’t we just give a pause to the in-person instruction, at least until the end of this month, to avoid this peak?” Zhang said. “By the end of the month, [cases are] going to reach a peak and it’s going to start to drop.”

Such a move would push back much of the planned schedule for LAUSD league play, throwing the rest of the winter season into flux. No matter where they stand on the break, students and coaches are dreading that potential outcome.

When he first heard the announcement, El Camino Real boys’ soccer coach Ian Kogan’s first thought was a hope his team could just finish its season. The word “shutdown” invites fear — fear of a certain permanence.

“I’m hoping that this week they’re using to get the testing going, getting the kids back on campus, seeing where the positivity rate is,” Kogan said. “But if 20% of the kids are sick, then it might be another week.”


Advertisement