SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — From high school football to soccer clubs, many kids are back to team drills and training, but the state tells CBS13 those teams are violating state health orders and could be guilty of a misdemeanor. This come weeks after several counties got permission from the state to authorize distanced drills and conditioning.

The California Department of Public (CDPH) Health now says even socially-distanced drills in counties with variances are not currently allowed. According to the state, the drills were never allowed.

However, that comes as a surprise to the counties where health officers tell CBS13 that CDPH gave them the go-ahead to start allowing distanced drills and conditioning weeks ago.

CBS13 obtained evidence that the state privately gave some counties the go-ahead for youth sports drills back on June 12th, the day CDPH released the Gym and Fitness guidance. The state is now recanting without explanation.

In a report on June 12, CBS13 began investigating youth sports guidelines after learning a Placer County soccer club began holding indoor trainings. But just moments before our story aired, the county sent us updated state guidance allowing distanced drills.

CBS13 has now obtained the following communication between the California Department of Public Health and Placer County from that day. Placer specifically asked, “Are distanced drills and conditioning activities allowed for youth?” And the health officer responded, “Yes, … provided they comply with the gym and fitness center guidance.”

CBS13 learned the state told Yolo County the same thing. But a closer look at that fitness guidance indicates it specifically excludes youth sports and other youth related activities. CBS13 asked the state to clarify following our initial report. 

Meanwhile, Placer, Yolo, and other counties gave teams the go-ahead with Interim Guidance to start modified distanced drills and conditioning.

Now, weeks later, the CDPH tells CBS13, “no recreational team sports or youth sports are permitted and the fitness guidance is not to be used for team sports activities,” adding “Placer County has been informed.”

Placer County declined an interview, but tells CBS13, “We would hope that if the state is now saying their previous language was in error, they would make that correction and provide clear, specific, publicly-available guidance.”

The state said that guidance would be provided “at a later time,” clarifying that in the meantime anyone violating an executive order “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Frankly, having been in law enforcement, I’m not sure what agency is going to want to go out there and write citations,” said Chris Champlin, a former Sheriff’s deputy and father of two youth athletes. “And who do you cite? The parents, the coaches, the leagues?”

The state didn’t clarify who would be held liable in a situation like this, but even counties that are not allowing distanced drills at this time say their enforcement would be “education-based.”

“As a parent, we’re trying to do the best we can, but it is confusing,” Champlin said. “We’re hearing different things from different public agencies, from the city to the counties to the state.”

Champlin’s son’s soccer team is returning to what they thought were now-authorized distance drills. And he’s not alone, from high school football, to cheer teams, drills and conditioning have resumed across the state. It’s something many have been desperate for after months on lock down.

“I think it’s healthy not only for their physical and mental health, but those for socialization as well,” Champlin said.

So far no, none of the counties allowing these drills has issued a public correction. Neither has the state. Until the state finally issues the official Youth Sports guidelines, parents and teams are left to figure out how to move forward on their own.

CBS13 asked CDPH to clarify exactly what it’s ban on “recreational team sports” included. We provided the following list of examples complied from recent emails we’ve received from concerned parents:
(The text has been edited for privacy)

  • DRILLS: Do group drills – where there is no traditional team play or competition within a team/between teams – fall under “recreational team sports”? What if they maintain 6 feet of distance at all times?
  • NON-TEAM YOUTH TOURNAMENTS: We have been notified that some private basketball/gym facilitates are holding high school basketball tournaments.  Would that be allowed if they are pick-up games and not official “teams”?
  • HIGH SCHOOL COMPETITIVE SPORTS: It’s been widely reported that high school football and cheer teams are running condition drills on campus. Do high school “competitive” sports fall under your “recreational” definition?
  • YOUTH GYMNASTICS CLASSES: Can you also clarify the rules for youth gyms? Local gymnastics gyms are encouraging kids to register for their classes. If those children are not on an officially on a “team”, are gymnastic “classes” allowed?

CDPH provided the following two responses:

“As we’ve previously mentioned, no youth sports or recreational team sports are permitted at this time. When we have additional guidance on these activities, including what all will be covered under recreational team sports, we will let you know.

As previously mentioned, at this time, no recreational team sports or youth sports are permitted and the fitness guidance is not to be used for team sports activities.

Also making sure you saw the following guidance for day camps:
https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-daycamps.pdf

California Department of Public Health/Public Affairs”

“Hi Julie – It appears that everything you list below are youth sports, assuming the gymnastics classes are not part of a camp, and we just provided you the link to that guidance. Again, the state has not issued guidance on youth sports, therefore they are not allowed at this time. Think we have answered that specific question multiple times at this point.

California Department of Public Health/Public Affairs”

UPDATED: 7/2/20: The text of this story was updated to add additional quotes and images.

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