Palos Verdes Peninsula’s high school athletic directors have been on the front lines of determining how to cajole a group of teenagers into following coronavirus safety protocols. What they’re finding is: it’s not that easy.
Peninsula High’s Glenn Van Enk and Palos Verdes High’s Brian Shapiro are into their third week of voluntary team workouts. The two have been working on developing practice protocols for the past six weeks.
Some of those protocols include keeping the athletes in pods of 10-12, and ensuring they practice social distancing.
“Keeping the kids six feet apart has been the hardest to adhere to,” Shapiro said. “Not only in athletics, but the social nature of teenagers. I find myself constantly reminding them to stay six feet apart.”
Shapiro said, for example, he is constantly monitoring the PV cross country runners, and he’s already seen an improvement.
“There are a lot of things we didn’t pay attention to before,” he said. “If it’s going to keep kids safe and our programs running, I know everyone involved is happy to play the role (of scrutinizer).”
One of the other problems Shapiro and Van Enk are running into is regarding practice times and fields.
“There have been challenges in various areas, including facilities challenges where you have sports going on simultaneously which typically don’t,” Shapiro said. “We’re also limited to beginning practices after school, outside and there are no lights, so everything has to be squeezed in between 3 p.m. and sunset.”
While the practices are voluntary because the current health orders, student-athletes who want participate must fill out a screening form prior to arriving on campus.
“We’ve set up a form on the Beach Cities Health District website where the kids can go on and answer a series of questions,” Van Enk said. “Coaches are also checking in with the athlete and making sure everyone is safe to participate.”
Van Enk, in his first year as Peninsula’s athletic director, has heard positive comments from the Panther parents, and he’s said the most vocal are the ones pushing to get their kids out from behind a computer.
“Some of the loudest are saying ‘I want my kids out there doing something,’ and ‘Thank you for making this happen’,” Van Enk said. “These kids are behind a screen all day, and their parents want them out and doing something proactive.”
In years past, students trying out for a particular sport would not need to fill out an athletic clearance form. Currently, Van Enk said he hasn’t had any pushback in regard to parents signing waivers for their children to participate.
“All I’ve heard about is parents asking how they can get their kid out on the field to participate,” Van Enk said. “Part of that is signing waivers, and the parents have been more than willing to sign them to get their kids cleared. I can’t believe how quickly parents were on top of this.”
Van Enk noted the biggest hoop he’s had to jump through at Peninsula has been sanitation, but he said Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified has provided supplies for every coach in the district.
“Coaches have spray bottles and towels to sanitize any equipment. Each coach has a supply pack to use for practices, and our custodial crew is constantly around campus on a cleaning regiment every so often tending to areas that are so commonly touched,” Van Enk said.
Areas on the campus that are off-limits are locker rooms and water fountains. Peninsula has at least five water bottle filling stations on campus, and students are instructed to bring a water bottle from home to minimize the amount of touching on surfaces.
Shapiro said there are plenty more decisions that need to be made before sports can return.
“December 14 is the day football has to be full contact in order for the season to start on time, and that’s a huge deadline, because we’re nowhere near meeting protocols for practices of that nature to take place,” Shapiro said.
And it’s not the CIF governing body that makes the decisions about competitive sports resuming, it’s the L.A. County Health Department.
“If this doesn’t happen by a certain date, there’s no way you can have a game,” Van Enk said. “People are going to start to realize if competition isn’t approved, we won’t be able to play. It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next month.”