“No one was advocating for us,” said Jack Babala, who with fellow athletes Xavier Smith, Jr. and Matt Fahn organized a drive-by on Friday, February 26, in front of Palisades High School. Between 20 and 30 cars filled with athletes from different sports drove past the school with horns beeping. All had the same message: “Let Pali Play.”
Babala, a junior who has played all sports, is now focusing on football — “my favorite.”
Why have a rally now, since it’s been almost a year since athletes were allowed on campus?
“What really set us off was seeing that El Camino started practicing almost two weeks ago,” said Babala, who lives in West L.A. “They already have games scheduled. They’re also an LAUSD charter school. If they can have games, why can’t we?”
PaliHi Assistant Principal of Athletics Russ Howard and Athletic Director John Achen posted on the school website that conditioning is planned to begin on Monday, March 8. They note, “Many regulations from State/County/LAUSD are changing daily. Expect further updates and remain flexible.”
The school also notes that weekly Covid-19 testing is required in order to participate. “While we’re hopeful there will be, there is no guarantee of any sport having any games/competitions this year.”
Babala was interviewed by Channel 9’s Kara Finnstrom, who said that “Under new state guidelines, areas that have dropped below certain Covid-19 transmission levels, like L.A. and Orange Counties, can resume outdoor sports, like football, lacrosse and water polo with some safety changes.
“Different districts and schools are now resuming athletics at their own pace. In Orange County, Corona Del Mar High’s championship football team is getting back to full contact drills for the first time in 14 months,” Finnstrom said.
Babala still has another year, but for seniors this might be their last chance at playing under the lights.
He told Finnstrom that at PaliHi, “a lot of people come in from different areas. This will basically, there’s no other way of putting it, impact the fact of them going to colleges and getting scholarship offers.”
Those sports that can start conditioning on March 8 are football, cross-county and water polo. Starting on March 15, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, swimming and diving, track and field, baseball, softball and golf can begin conditioning.
Indoor sports, which include volleyball, basketball and wrestling, are not allowed to start at this time.
Parent Michael Arnold, whose son Caden was a senior on the basketball team last year and whose three daughters play on PaliHi’s basketball team, is compiling data from 25 states that have held sports this fall/winter.
Circling the News is sympathetic because while visiting relatives in Wyoming and South Dakota, we noted that high school sports were ongoing and reported on local news networks.
Arnold recommends that interested parents join the “Let Them Play CA” Facebook page, which states: “This community is here for those in California who have lost out on their sports seasons due to arbitrary shutdowns. While 40 other states have allowed youth sports to take place, we are still doing Nothing to help our youth.”
Arnold was asked why he thinks LAUSD has not moved forward with sports. “One word: liability,” he said. “Even though a liability waiver could be drafted, I simply don’t think they or the unions want to go there.” He said that a large number of lawsuits are being filed across the state that would allow athletes to complete.
Attorney Stephen Grebing, who helped win a temporary restraining order allowing high school and youth sports to resume in San Diego County amid the pandemic, said on February 21 that his firm, Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie, would be filing similar lawsuits in other California counties this week.
On San Diego television station KUSI, Grebing said: “We will be filing similar lawsuits in Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and other counties this coming week to ensure all youths have the same right to play sports — indoor and outdoor — as professional athletes do.”
Time to support our local PaliHi athletes. “Let Them Play!”