By JENELYN RUSSO     9/7/2021

For the first time in two years, back to school also means back to sports as Diocese of Orange Catholic high schools return to a regular schedule of athletic competition during the 2021-22 academic year.

Athletes who compete in fall sports, including football, boys water polo, girls volleyball, girls golf, cross country and girls tennis, are excited to be back in action during their standard time frame. With the spread of Covid-19 still a top-of-mind concern, school athletics staff members are adhering to many similar protocols they put in place last year in an effort to keep the seasons progressing safely.

“We’re trying to be as normal as we possibly can, but also as safe as we’re supposed to be,” said Servite High School Athletic Director, Alan Clinton.

Clinton stated that the experience of returning to sports last spring has been crucial as the coaches and staff prepare for the start of the fall season. The wearing of masks during team bus rides and in film rooms, as well as sanitation practices for water distribution, are just a few of the protocols the Friars are continuing to use.

Servite also juggles the use of multiple venues, such as playing football at both the Santa Ana Bowl and Lebard Stadium at Orange Coast College. With varying requirements, Clinton said that cooperation and teamwork are keeping the athletic contests safe and successful.

“We’re very well prepared for that, and we are used to it because we don’t have our own venue for [football],” said Clinton. “Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that we have what we could call a normal season and normal year.”

Santa Margarita Catholic High School is also keeping up athletics protocols from last spring, including social distancing where possible, practice cohorts and virtual meetings, all in the name of mitigating any quarantine situations.

“We’re adapting to any changes that arise,” said Santa Margarita Athletic Director, Annie Garrett. “We’re doing whatever we need to do to keep everyone safe.”

Santa Margarita opened their football season on August 20 at the brand new Saddleback College Stadium, where 5,000 fans were on hand as the Eagles defeated San Juan Hills 38-14.

“It was an amazing environment for our kids to be in front of a larger crowd,” said Garrett.

Indoor sports, such as girls volleyball, are still limited to less than 1000 spectators, and those on the sidelines must wear masks. Direction from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is still continually in flux, but with everyone from coaches and staff to parents and student athletes all on the same page, flexibility remains key.

“Everyone is working really well together and doing what we can to provide a safe environment for our kids so these activities can still go on and we can keep moving forward,” said Garrett.

Both athletic directors cite strong participation numbers across all sports, which is bringing school spirit back to the high school campuses.

“I think everyone is so excited for all events, whether it’s sports activities or other social events that we are providing on campus,” said Garrett. “All the kids starting to feel normal again.”

“Every day is a new day and something could pop up, but that’s okay,” said Clinton. “We will take those challenges on. We’re here to create memories for these student athletes, and we’re able to do that. We’re getting some normalness back to our lives, and I think that’s huge.”