With the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sports, student-athletes worldwide have had to sacrifice their sports seasons. Although there is no doubt that students everywhere are feeling sad and disappointed in how the school year has turned out, the loss of a high school or college sports season on top of that is something even more difficult to grapple with.
However, as we move into the winter season, it’s becoming clear that this loss may have been a temporary one; schools are beginning to restart conditioning, practice, and games. Most notably, it was announced on September 24 that the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) athletic conference would resume, and football, basketball, and other winter sports would proceed. With the first games scheduled to start in November, both excitement and anxiety for this unusual sports season is running high.
The decision to resume the conference has been a long, complex journey. Previously, Pac-12 had announced on August 11 that all seasons would be postponed indefinitely, and anticipated a spring start for football. This uncertainty frustrated many college athletes, some of whom decided to act upon their disappointment. In September, football players from the University of Southern California wrote an open letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom. The letter appealed to Newsom and other state officials, pleading for them to work with Pac-12 to find a way for sports to move forward. Teams at UCLA, Oregon, and other Pac-12 schools were quick to support the letter, and with a set of updated health and safety recommendations, the Pac-12 CEO group voted to proceed with practices and games. The season will be different from any other, with fans banned from all competitions and frequent antigen testing for team members.
Berkeley High School (BHS) baseball player, senior, and Pac-12 football fan Jake Hilton said that he knows “a lot of players [who] were really upset about the initial postponement.” He added that many Berkeley fans were especially disappointed “because this year was supposed to be Cal’s very good season, we have a lot of strong players.”
Although Hilton is excited that Cal and the other Pac-12 teams are getting the chance to play, he said that he’s a little nervous as well. “With all of these sports returning, there’s bound to be a situation like what the NFL is experiencing right now, with players starting to test positive for coronavirus,” said Hilton. He is referencing the recent COVID-19 outbreak affecting several NFL teams, including the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans. With a sport like football, close contact is inevitable, and Hilton is anticipating a COVID-19 outbreak following the start of the Pac-12 football season.
Hilton and many other Pac-12 fans are excited to watch the upcoming winter sports on TV. The resumption of Pac-12 is exciting for another reason; it could pave the way for high school sports to restart in some capacity as well. When asked what Hilton would advocate for if it was his baseball season on the line, Hilton said that he “would definitely want to play, especially since baseball can be played in a safer way than football in terms of contact.” He added that for students at these Pac-12 schools, this desire to play is heightened because “[the athletes are] training year-round every day to be able to play these sports.”
Hilton is hopeful that the BHS baseball team will be able to play for his final high school varsity season. Hilton said that, “most sports players are going to want to play their sports,” and he’s hopeful that BHS will be able to find a way for their athletes to have a season.