OUSD and the Oakland Athletic League Open School Fields to Sports Conditioning for Middle and High School Student/Athletes
Oakland – Almost eleven months after all OUSD schools closed to students, cutting off in-person access to the classroom and to sports, the District and the Oakland Athletic League (OAL) have restarted sports conditioning. It is not formal practice, as the athletes are just working out to get in shape, the teams run no plays, and there is no contact. But the conditioning for all athletes who register and provide a current physical is now open, allowing students a space to do things they haven’t been able to do since March of 2020: do team workouts, be around their teammates and friends, and catch up with their peers in person. “It’s great. I love it. It’s nice to talk to people my own age,” said Skyline High junior cheerleader, Jaylani Perez.
The conditioning is currently focused on what are normally fall sports including football, cheerleading, girls volleyball, and cross country, which, if the District and the OAL can open up all competition this spring, will be the first to begin. The conditioning workouts began last Monday, February 1 at several locations across the city. Athletes and coaches are required to exercise proper social distancing and wear masks at all times. “I was happy that we were able to go back to conditioning, but it’s nothing like the normal situation that we have practice and games,” says Skyline High School senior football player, Demarion Jones (above).
Jones adds that missing sports is only part of the challenge that students everywhere have been facing. “I miss going back to school. And just looking at a screen the whole day is stressful because I don’t want to just sit at my house staring at a computer, instead of just going to regular school, and hanging out with my friends and learning.”
Last Thursday, Castlemont High School in East Oakland was the site of two separate conditioning periods, one for Castlemont and one for Skyline High School. Skyline held its workout first, and had more than two dozen football players and one cheerleader. The athletes said they have been struggling since last spring. “I’ve been waiting a long time for us to just get back and ready to go. It’s been very tough. In recent months, things have been very hard for us. We just wanted to get back into our sport,” said Skyline High junior football player, Felipe Baires (below).
“It helps us cope with life,” added Baires, who said Oakland has been difficult through the pandemic. “Recently a lot of things have been going on in Oakland. Deaths. Hardships. Mental challenges for us. My sport helps me cope with all that. It helps me fix myself. It’s like an escape for me.”
Skyline’s Jaylani Perez was the lone cheerleader at this practice. She said she has seen the mental well-being of her friends suffer because of the pandemic. “I’ve seen it a lot, especially with my friends. You know, we’re in not so great neighborhoods, so, football and sports are our only outlet, and once you take that away from them, it kind of takes away part of them and they shut down.”
Perez (below) adds that the past year has been hard for her, too and that it’s about time for sports to resume. “It’s usually just stuck at the house with the same routine and not breaking out of it. So, once you give people sports, or an outlet to express themselves freely, it brings out a better half of them, and their mental health goes up. Just a bunch of good things.”
“We know students have been away from school and sports for a long time,” said Franky Navarro, Commissioner of the Oakland Athletic League. “It’s great that we’ve gotten to a point in the pandemic where we can finally open our fields to this training. While it’s not actual practice, it’s still a great benefit for the athletes. Hundreds of them signed up last week, so clearly, the need for this is high throughout our community. Our coaches are happy to be here to provide the students such an important outlet.”
The benefits of the workouts are obvious. Everyone at Castlemont on Thursday was thrilled to be there and just feeling a bit of normalcy for once in a very long time. The workouts will continue until they can transition to full practices, and perhaps games. Any middle school or high school athlete who wants to join can inquire with the Oakland Athletic League at OAL@ousd.org.
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