Francisco Colon saw this as an opportunity for rivals to stand united.
He and wife Gina organized the “Let Them Play” rally that took place in front of the Manteca Unified School District office Friday afternoon. It was a statewide event coordinated by parents at 138 locations. In Ripon, Brian Wood spearheaded the efforts at the busiest intersection in town.
Participants of the Let Them Play movement are urging state politicians and official to allow the return youth and high school sports competitions. The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for prep sports in the state, halted the spring season last March and has had to push back and revise the start of its 2020-21 calendar as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
“Kids are facing a lot of things and depression is a big part of it — that just breaks my heart,” Francisco Colon said. His son Lyon is a junior football player at Manteca High.
“We just want to let them know there's hope. We love our community and we're pushing to get our voice out there the right way. I think by getting the schools together and showing unity meant a lot. At the end of the day, it was good to see each other, even if we're coming from different sides.”
About 35 parents, students, teachers and coaches showed up wearing school colors and holding signs at the MUSD office. East Union, Manteca Sierra and Lathrop high schools were represented. Colon expressed his gratitude to all who attended and ended the rally by leading a prayer.
Wood said that roughly 70-80 were present on the corners of Wilma Ave. and Main St. in Ripon. Most in attendance came from Ripon High but had some reinforcements from neighboring rival Ripon Christian.
“That was pretty cool,” Wood said. “We just wanted to show a united front with what's going on all over California.”
To observe social distancing, student-athletes took turns occupying each of the four corners, holding signs and clanging cowbells. All participants were required to wear masks.”
Guidelines released by the California Department of Public Health last month included a start date of Jan. 25 for outdoor, low-contact sports allowable in counties that remain in the most-restrictive purple tier of the state's reopening plan. Fifty-four of 58 California counties, including San Joaquin, are in the purple tier.
CIF is lobbying for the CDPH to loosen its requirements and allow all sports for counties in the red tier. Under its current guidelines, only sports such as baseball and softball — along with purple-tier sports like golf, tennis, swimming and track — are allowable in the red tier. High-contact outdoor and indoor sports (football, soccer, volleyball, basketball) require counties to be in the orange and yellow tiers.
Since the state's initial shutdown in March, athletes have mostly had to work out on their own, while some have joined club teams to participate in out-of-state competitions.
Teams from Ripon and Ripon Christian have been able to meet multiple times per week for conditioning. Manteca Unified's five schools have been idle since mid-November after the district discovered the Weston Ranch boys basketball team did not follow COVID-19 protocols in a practice session.
“It has been 10 months (since the last high school competitions),” Sierra teacher and football coach Chris Johnson. “It's time to move forward.”