Sacramento fall sports shutdowns hit parents, coaches

As the debate on whether to open California schools during the coronavirus pandemic continues, many

As the debate on whether to open California schools during the coronavirus pandemic continues, many Sacramento area fall sports have been postponed or canceled, affecting children and families.

The cancellations have caused uncertainty for many households, especially those with young children. If parents have to work and are unable to get a caretaker for their kids or put them in an activity, it can cause stress.

Richard Graham is the 14U coach for the Roseville Junior Tigers, a travel football team.

In addition to coaching, he has three sons of his own. His 14-year-old plays football, while his 7- and 8-year-olds play soccer. He also sponsors and coaches four other children who do not have father figures.

Graham notes that in wealthier areas, parents are more likely to be in the picture and can afford to do more with their kids. “Not everyone has that,” he said.

“It’s not just sports,” he said. “If they don’t have something positive to turn to to get away from what’s going on in their neighborhoods, it’s actually a real big deal.”

“These kids are with me from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” he said. “If they’re not with me at that time, getting structure and working as a team with their teammates and friends, that’s where negative influences can come in.”

This fall’s program has been canceled, but there are people trying to start club teams to keep young athletes occupied. Graham said that is not an easy task.

“I can’t go out and spend $3,000 on equipment and take these kids and work with them,” he said. “And then I would have to get insurance because someone could sue.”

“Kids are looking for a sense of family,” he continued. “If they don’t get it from a sports team, where else could they find it? The local neighborhood gang who don’t have their best interest in mind.”

Graham said he has been able to practice with his own children, but not his team.

Anthony Hernandez has a 13-year-old, two 10-year-olds and a 4-year-old gearing up for T-ball, life is normally a mix of football practices, cheering work and myriad other scrimmages inbetween.

Hernandez coaches the Ripon Knights youth football team where he is also a board member. Their season has been canceled as well. Paired with the closure of their family-owned hair salon, Hernandez said he’s considering a new role for himself: teacher.

“We are looking at a home school program at least until COVID restrictions are totally lifted at schools,” he said.

For the Hernandez family, distance learning was not the best experience this spring when schools suddenly shifted to online-only experiences. Hernandez is not confident schools can fix it this year and he’s not comfortable with hybrid options that would put students in classrooms for a period of time each week.

“I’m not 100% sure how schools will keep kids from not contacting each other and use proper sanitation,” he said. “I think the hardest thing physically this fall is to make sure our children get proper exercise and not become couch potatoes. I have been a football coach and board member for almost two decades so I have to take my fall approach differently than years before.”

Hernandez said one thing he has learned through the pandemic is that children seem to be more resilient than adults. The trick is to keep them from bouncing off the walls with no fall sports to play.

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