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LAGUNA HILLS, CA — It doesn’t matter the sport. It doesn’t matter the age. One unifying message has reached out across city rivalries and county lines: Let Them Play. One year ago, the stadium at Laguna Hills High School was filled with high school soccer players battling for the Best in the West. Now, those stadiums are empty, devoid of fans and players due to the coronavirus and the restrictions placed upon youth sports in the state of California.

It started with a letter in October from a Mission Viejo family addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to let student-athletes take the fields and courts once again. On Friday, athletes and their families gathered at area high schools to share the unified message as only sports can. For many, this is the first chance students have had to return to their high schools. Most donned their jerseys, school colors and gathered (in masks and socially distanced) with their teammates. There were smiling eyes, a few tears, and much laughter.

With coronavirus cases reaching record levels, under state health orders, teams are required to practice social distancing and wear masks as a health and safety measure, a practical impossibility in most team sports. Tracy High School is one of 80-plus high scuools across California today holding #LetThemPlay rallies, in hopes of California high school sports starting. “The time is ticking” one parent said. @Recordnet pic.twitter.com

— Justin Frommer (@JustinbFrommer) January 16, 2021 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that mask-wearing and social distancing are key to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, adding that youth sports teams “should consider competing against teams in their local neighborhood, town or community.”

Meanwhile, California’s youth athletes are still waiting to play competitive games on their home turf. Coaches and local elected officials are still sharing their open plea to Gov. Newsom to allow California kids to return to competitive play to keep those families close to home with health and safety protocols to guard against the COVID-19 virus.

If you attended, share your pictures with Patch by emailing your Patch Editor, along with a note about your athlete, their sport, and what your hopes are going forward into the spring of 2021.

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