Ventura County residents rally to start-up high school sports at ‘Let Ventura Play’ protest

Stevie+Ledesma%2C+Trinity+Mendoza%2C+and+Chanell+Ledesma+%28left+to+right%29+participate+in+the+Let+Us+Play+rally+in+Ventura%2C+CA+on+Nov.+6+Photo+credit%3A+Emily+Ledesma

Stevie Ledesma, Trinity Mendoza, and Chanell Ledesma (left to right) participate in the Let Us Play rally in Ventura, CA on Nov. 6 Photo credit: Emily Ledesma

By Kennedy Collier

Since mid-March, California has been on lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic. Life has changed entirely as activities that were once taken for granted are now socially discouraged or have been outright canceled.

When COVID-19 started to spread across the globe, sports as a collective had to either temporarily or outright cancel their respective season.

But, one by one, sports came back. The professionals got their leagues going again, then high-level college programs followed. Yet for many community college and high school student-athletes, their school’s sports teams have not come back. This is why on Friday, a small group of protestors made their voices known. The group’s message was that there is a safe, responsible way to bring high school sports back to Ventura County.

On Friday, a group of around 40 people gathered at the Government Center Lawn in Ventura. They held signs in support of a plan to restart sports at a high school level. The humble crowd held signs that read “Let Ventura Play” among other pro-reopening slogans.

Local Ventura athletes, students and parents gathered in front of the Ventura County Government Center on Nov. 6
Local Ventura athletes, students and parents gathered in front of the Ventura County Government Center on Nov. 6 Photo credit: Emily Ledesma

“Parents are really struggling and kids are struggling,” Jim McGee, a parent of a 17-year-old student said. “[Missing a whole season] isn’t an opportunity you will get back. Not just the social aspect, but being fit mentally, physically and emotionally.”

The students present at the protest agreed that the absence of their favorite pastimes has been taking a toll. Many worry about how long the hiatus will last and how they soon have to make life-changing decisions on where to go for college. Some are hoping sports is their ticket in.

“Sometimes this is the only way for people to get out of the situations they are in. Maybe they don’t have the financial stability [to afford] college,” Simon Brown, a senior running back for the Ventura High School, explained.

Brown’s words echoed throughout the students attending the protest. The anxiety of not being able to show potential coaches and scouts their abilities on the field. With some students potentially missing two whole seasons, the urge to want to go back to playing was becoming overwhelming.

According to the protestors, colleges have not been accepting any alternative way for students to showcase their talents.

Ventura High School athletes Giacomo Sherman, Logan Bobis, Noa McGee participate in the Let Us Play Rally in Ventura, CA
Ventura High School athletes Giacomo Sherman, Logan Bobis, Noa McGee pose for a photo while participating in the Let Us Play rally in Ventura, CA on Nov. 6. Photo credit: Emily Ledesma

Aidan Ledesma, a senior at Buena High School, plays for the golf team and said that because of the lack of tournaments he has nothing to show prospective universities.

“Yeah, I get to go to the golf course but I don’t get to play with my team,” Ledesma stated. “I’m just playing on my own and I can’t even show it for college.”

Ventura County is under the red tier according to the California government but with a seven day average case rate of 7.2, the county in in danger of moving up to the purple tier which is the most restrictive. It was also reported this week that a PAC-12 opener was canceled due to “COVID issues,” showing that even big schools with money are not immune to dealing with the pandemic.

This did not deter any of the protestors as they shouted and cheered whenever a passing “supporter” honked the horn of their car. They were firm in their belief that there is a safe and logical way to reopen the once canceled sports season. But with November getting underway and the end of the year soon upon us, the time to make a decision may soon be past us.