SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom has released new rules for youth sports allowing some high schools to resume football and other outdoor sports as early as February 26.
Under the new guidelines, all outdoor sports can be played once a county reaches a level of 14 cases or lower for every 100,000 people.
Zelbee Rader, a high school student in Fair Oaks, said she’s hoping the governor will continue to modify the guidelines to allow all indoor and outdoor sports to be played. The 17-year old said volleyball has been her passion since she was a little kid.
“It means everything to me. I’ve trained my entire life since 5th grade to be able to play this sport,” Rader said.
In pre-pandemic times, the high school senior explains volleyball was what helped her succeed in the classroom.
"It’s been so tough because sports were my motivation to get good grades because if you don’t have good grades, you weren’t able to play," said Rader. "You had to maintain a good GPA."
When volleyball was no longer a part of her everyday life, Rader said she turned to drinking and partying as her new escape.
“It took a really bad toll. There were nights I just spent crying and super depressed thinking, when did my life start going downhill? I realized it was when sports was taken out of my life,” she added.
Rader has since stopped drinking as a means to cope with her stress and turned to her faith to help overcome the struggles of having a virtual senior year.
Senator Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, explained that stories like Rader’s are what compelled him to write a letter to Newsom urging him to resume outdoor and low-contact indoor high school sports.
“While I feel we have to be concerned about the safety and be concerned about the virus from that perspective, we also have to be concerned about the emotional and social well-being of our kids,” said Becker.
As the father of two high school students, Becker added that he's worried about the mental health effects his kids and other teens are experiencing without sports in their lives. While he’s grateful the governor listened to his letter and loosened some restrictions, he noted that he’ll continue to advocate for more sports to resume safely.
“I believe if we can get sports back, it’s going to help our kids start to get back mentally, and so I will keep pushing for other sports, including low contact, indoor sports,” Becker said.
During a recent press conference, Newsom noted that a work group would continue to discuss the safety issues surrounding indoor sports. The state’s new guidelines only allow Rader to play outdoor volleyball, which she points out is much different than playing at a gym.
"I don’t play beach volleyball," she said. "I’m not strong enough for that. I play an indoor sport."
Rader added that she’s grateful she was recently allowed to start playing club volleyball. The high school senior, who’s attended multiple "Let Them Play" rallies, plans to continue using her voice to advocate for all sports to resume.