May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

First step? Irvine district plans high school sports camps June 22, but start could be delayed

Former Woodbridge football coach Rick Gibson (left) who has continued as athletic director, leads the Warriors last season. (File photo Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

Summer camps for high school athletes in Irvine will tentatively start on Monday, June 22, but could be delayed in two week increments based on state and health guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The camps will likely include football and other fall sports and possibly others. The two-week camps typically help athletes prepare and get in condition for the season. They also act as major fund-raisers for athletic programs.

It has not been determined yet whether the football season or other fall sports including cross country, boys water polo, girls volleyball and girls tennis will start on time with those decisions expected later based on the status of the pandemic.

But if the camps do start on time, it would be a first step toward possibly resuming high school sports, which were shut down after the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

“It’s tentative and it’s based on the governor’s guidelines and the health departments guidelines,” said Mark Cunningham, Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director. “If we can meet that criteria, then we’re going to open the camps.”

Cunningham said Irvine Unified School District officials made the announcement about the camps and added he believes a follow-up decision will be made in the first week of June on whether the date will be in place or the start of camps postponed.

“All programs who meet the guidelines will have the opportunity to have a camp provided the state and health department (guidelines) are followed,” he said.

All precautions, such as social distancing, would be used, Cunningham said.

“We would be following all of the guidelines that were in place at the time,” Cunningham said. “We wouldn’t allow a camp to move forward if they didn’t meet those guidelines.”

A release from the district added that “coaches and athletic directors will make plans to limit group size, if large group gathering restrictions are still in place.” 

Woodbridge Athletic Director Rick Gibson said he wants his coaches to be ready for the start of camps.

“If Orange County says you can hold these camps, we’re getting protocols together,” said Gibson. “We’re trying to write up some protocals to give the information out so that people will know if this happens, this is kind of the basis and how we will go.”

If health officials deem it unsafe to start the camps, Gibson said the next start date would be Monday, July 6.

“We want to get the protocals ready so it’s not inventing the wheel here,” Gibson said. “And use those protocols if we’re able to start. I’m really happy that our district is taking the stance not to just cut it off, to say we’re not going to have summer camps.”

Gibson emphasized social distancing would be required for athletes and coaches and other preventive measures such as masks for athletes and coaches, frequent hand washing and preventing common use of water bottles would be in place. He said athletes would need to have physicals before they could participate in the camps. Handshakes would be discouraged.

“Ideally we would like to talk about the sports that are going to happen first, the fall sports,” Gibson said. “Because if our kids are not active with our coaches through August, we can’t start fall sports right away. There’s no way. Normally we have conditioning and weights. A cross country kid can’t go out and start running his races two weeks after he’s off this quarantine.

“We are looking to kind of get kids in shape so if a sport does happen in the fall, they are physically ready for it. We know it’s a situation where we’re not sure. I would gather June 1 we would have an announcement whether those camps are going to go June 22 or if in fact we will set the next date at July 6.”

Gibson said Woodbridge will take payments from parents starting June 1 by credit cards and that information is on the school’s website.

“But we are actually going to encourage people to wait until the camp starts,” Gibson said. “We have said on our brochure online, first day of camp, we will accept a check payment.'”

Full refunds would be offered if the camps don’t happen, Gibson said.

Gibson said he has compassion for the athletes but added coaches are also going through challenges.

“Yes, it’s horrible on these kids, they haven’t had conditioning and weights, but teachers aren’t paid in the summer, so a lot of our coaches, it’s kind of a help to them to weather the July-August no paycheck time,” Gibson said. “That is a part of this too. It’s a chance for them to make some money when they are not paid during the teaching year.

“If coaches didn’t need to be paid, we probably wouldn’t even charge for the camps. We’re trying to help coaches and help kids and yet not be in exhorbitant in prices.”

Portola High School Athletic Director Katie Levensailor added:

‘We can’t wait to get back to athletics because it is such an integral part of the high school experience. Of course student and staff safety is our number one priority, so we will wait until it is safe. Once we get the go ahead, we will be ready to get kids building their athletic skills at our summer skills camps.”

Whether or not fall sports, including football, start on time or are delayed remains very much up in the air. CIF commissioner Rob Wigod has said officials are monitoring the situation and will make their decisions based on what is happening with the pandemic.

Most football teams in Orange County, including Woodbridge, are scheduled to open Friday, Aug. 21.

“I think as far as CIF is concerned, my basic understanding is that if schools open up, then we will have athletics, but if the schools don’t open up then it means that the schools aren’t allowing kids to come to school, you can’t have athletic teams,” Cunningham said. “When the schools open, we will be able to have athletics.

“It’s going to depend on how safely everyone acts and adheres to what the guidelines are. If it gets abused, then we’re going to take a step back and I don’t think anyone wants that. But we also want to do what’s safe.”

“I think the critical thing is what happens to the upper levels, what’s going top happen in the NFL,” Gibson, the Woodbridge AD added. “What I heard is that on June 1 the NCAA has said it’s allowing voluntary practices on campuses. I heard the NFL is going to run some mini-camps perhaps.”

Gibson said he believes the start of high school football also depends on the status of the virus.

“I would be surprised if everything started Aug. 21,” he said.” I’d be surprised if by then we’re in stadiums with fans and everything is like last year. I would be very, very surprised.”

High school athletics were suspended in March after the coronavirus pandemic spread and many athletes in Orange County were denied a chance to finish out their high school careers.

In addition, all-star games for seniors in baseball and softball were also cancelled.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;