Photo by Nicholas McVicker
Above: Soccer ball at Mance Buchanon Park in Oceanside where the Oceanside Breakers soccer team practice with COVID-19 restrictions. Nov. 12, 2020.
Aired 11/17/20 on KPBS News
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.
Youth sports can create college and scholarship opportunities for many student-athletes. For graduating high school athletes, this would be the time to play in front of college coaches and recruiters.
But California’s current COVID-19 guidelines don’t allow any competitive games, sending some teams to neighboring states that do allow tournaments to take place.
Frank Zimmerman, coach for the Oceanside Breakers soccer team, said his team is one of many who has been impacted by the current state guidelines on youth sports.
“I’m not sure how this is going to end up but they’ve really lost a lot of valuable time,” he said.
Zimmerman was unable to lead his boys team of high school juniors to defend their 2019 state cup championship due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Oceanside Breakers forward Javier Camargo said that the championship game could have provided recruiting exposure.
“We were really looking forward to the National Cup, we’re defending champs back in 2019,” he said. “We could’ve been exposed to a lot of colleges now that we’re Juniors, and were pretty bummed out.”
California’s COVID-19 guidelines allow conditioning, practice and training, but no competition outside a team’s defined practice cohort.
“Playing locally is not allowed. Even playing with one of our Breakers teams against another is not yet allowed,” Zimmerman said. “They have to stay within their cohort. However, it is allowed in other neighboring states.”
Sporting events have been held in Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Teams from California are now making the trip in order to get their players in some competitive games.
Zimmerman plans to travel to Arizona with his team on Thanksgiving weekend, even though California has issued a travel advisory, telling people to quarantine if they go out of state and return.
Breakers defender Christian McElroy said he is looking forward to playing in front of college coaches when his team travels to the Arizona tournament.
“We just want to play and were not allowed to play in California so whenever we get a chance, it will be good,” he said.
With the restrictions on competitive play, sports clubs throughout San Diego are struggling to keep running.
The impact will hit some players more than others, Presidio Soccer Club executive director Bob Turner said
“The kids with money are going to be able to play,” he said. “They can afford it. But the underprivileged kids that have been helped and scholarshipped aren’t going to have those scholarships, they will not have them, and now again the direct effect is to those kids.”
Both Turner and Zimmerman said the lack of competitions in sports also impacts the mental health of players who just want to play.
“They miss competing with each other, against other teams, and they haven’t got to do that since March 13, before March 13,” Zimmerman said.
With no ease of restrictions in sight, players such as Camargo will need to work with their coaches to find the opportunities to get them exposed to college and pro recruiters.
“I’ve been playing the sport since I was four and yea it’s something I do want to play professionally, hopefully,” he said. “I look forward to getting scouted one day and making my dreams come true.”
This story was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
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