SALINAS — The objective is simple. Parents want their message heard.
A “Let Them Play” rally will be held Friday at 3 p.m. in the Star Market parking lot in Salinas. It will be one of several such rallies being held throughout the state. The event is organized by parents of high school athletes and aims to let youth and high school sports that are deemed safe return to competition with the right protocols in place.
“I’m planning on showing up,” said Mali Cuda, who has kids who play sports at Salinas High. “We hope someone will listen. Right now, we’re failing these kids as adults.”
Sports has been on hiatus in California since March 12 because of the pandemic.
Thoughts of sports returning in the fall were squashed when the California Interscholastic Federation postponed the start of fall sports until Dec. 12 — a date that has come and gone.
While the Central Coast Section announced that all sports could start practicing on Jan. 17, it came with protocols, meaning most sports would have to social distance to practice.
“There are sports that can be held right now,” Cuda said. “Yet, our district is not even having conditioning.”
With the stay-at-home order lifted, cross country, track and field, swimming, tennis and golf can all have competition if given clearance by the state and county health departments.
“This rally is a way to get these kids’ voices heard,” Cuda said. “It’s not just about sports. It’s about band, theater and clubs. It’s about giving kids something to do and have a healthy outlet.”
More than 200 people have voiced a desire to be at Friday’s event. Cuda believes social media could see that number double, as more parents grow disgruntled about sports remaining shut down.
“It’s a statewide rally,” Cuda said. “We’re one of the pop-up locations. There were a couple of dads that wanted our area to participate. As a mother, I believe in the cause.”
Cuda, who is helping get flyers out for the event, is looking for direction from school districts and the health department.
Even though the CCS approved to start practices with protocols in place, none of the county’s schools has started practice in any sport.
The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, the Pacific Grove Unified School District and the King City Union School District, as well as Palma and Stevenson private schools have continued with cohort conditioning.
“I’m still looking for our district to give us some direction,” Cuda said. “It feels like everyone is passing the buck. We haven’t had conditioning since Thanksgiving.”
Salinas Union High School District Director of Communications Marcos Cabrera said the shelter-in-place order during the holidays is the reason the district had not resumed conditioning.
Before the shutdown before Thanksgiving, all five schools in the SUHSD had conditioning for all sports for eight weeks — with no known health issues among athletes.
“We are in discussions on how to approach it,” Cabrera said. “The Board has been informed of the mandates, recommendations and ever-changing guidance that comes from the state and local health officials.”
Cuda believes that California — particularly Monterey County – can take a page from how several other states were successful in conducting sports last fall with little disruption.
“The SUHSD Board understands the growing frustrations over the restrictions imposed,” Cabrera said. “As COVID 19 metrics begin to reduce to lower levels and state orders lift, we look to restart the process of returning to athletic conditioning using the previous protocols for ensuring student and staff safety.”
Cuda isn’t downplaying the severity of the virus. But she believes there is data that supports a safe and healthy return to sports.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Cuda said. “There are safe ways to bring sports back. The ‘Let Them Play’ rally is parents advocating for their kids because no one is advocating for them.”
Contributed by local news sources