Let us play. That is the message California high school athletes made known outside the California Capitol in Sacramento on Sunday afternoon.
Caelen Bonniksen, an 18-year-old three-sport athlete, created an Instagram page called “CIF_LetUsPlay” on Nov. 21. The purpose of the account? To share the concerns of paused high school sports seasons across California and to organize the rally that took place over the weekend. About 200 student-athletes, parents and coaches attended, armed with signs reading, “Let Us Play” and “Kids need sports.”
“We just want to be heard,” Bonniksen said, per the Sacramento Bee. “I know there are a lot of kids who want to play and who are missing a lot. Decisions are made every day in education based on students’ best needs, but we don’t have that table right now.”
In July, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) pushed back the start of high school sports across the state to January amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made in an effort to “keep ahead” of coronavirus and the CIF continues to maintain that it will not allow activities to begin until county health departments give them the green light. However, the patience of student-athletes and parents has worn thin.
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“We all want a season,” said Richie Watts, a quarterback at Rocklin High School, located in a suburb just outside of Sacramento. “Sports is so much more than games. It’s about life. We’re all missing out.”
Bonniksen also brings a unique perspective to the table, as his father is the superintendent of the Placerville Union School District. Through conversations with his father, Bonniksen has come to understand why sports remain at a standstill. However, his message still remains a simple one.
Let us play.
“The CIF and our school districts want us to play sports,” Bonniksen said. “They support us being active. My dad says that there’s a fear of school districts being sued. We need a waiver that parents and athletes can sign, to protect the CIF and schools, to protect against lawsuits. It should be a family decision to play sports or not, if we can get that chance.”