Student-athlete advocates who successfully lobbied to allow outdoor youth sports to resume in California have more reason to celebrate after health officials updated their guidance this week to additionally enable indoor youth sports to start again.
The new guidance allows both outdoor and indoor youth sports to restart in counties where the COVID-19 case rate is 14 or fewer per 100,000 residents, as long as programs adhere to requirements currently in place for college teams, which include testing around each competition and contract tracing, according to the California Department of Health.
The updated guidance followed a legal victory brought by two student-athletes in San Diego County, where a judge found no medical evidence to justify why college athletes have been able to compete but not high school athletes. Similar legal action was filed by an Atherton volleyball player in San Mateo County, and more were planned in counties across California before the state agreed to a settlement Thursday.
Efforts to advocate for the return of youth sports, both indoor and outdoor, have been part of a fast-growing grassroots movement called Let Them Play CA — a coalition of over 60,000 kids, parents and coaches across the state — that has been demanding since Jan. 1 that Gov. Newsom lift the nation’s toughest restrictions on youth sports. The group cites data suggesting the restrictions are doing more harm than good.
The coalition achieved its first victory Feb. 19 when the state eased restrictions that allowed outdoor youth sports to resume. Those rule changes, however, did not apply to indoor sports until Thursday’s legal settlement. Now, “any youth or adult recreational sports team, including indoor sports,” can practice and compete as long as they adhere to requirements under the COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education. Testing requirements vary by sport.
While counties could choose to impose stricter rules on sports than the state’s recommendations, Ian Friedman, an attorney with San Diego-based law firm Wingert Grebing which represented the students in the San Diego lawsuit, told the Associated Press they could face lawsuits, as well.