TEMPLETON — The Templeton Community Services District Recreation Department is preparing to organize youth athletic activities starting in September following the updated California Department of Public Health guidelines. The announcement came on Aug. 3 and stated that kids could return to outdoor activities with the proper precautions.

The new rules were headlined by a competition ban that is working in accordance with the California Interscholastic Federation’s (CIF) decision on July 20 to push all high school sports competitions to Dec. 14, pending changes to state and local health mandates.

Working within the rules set forth by state and county health officials, the Templeton Recreation Department is developing a plan to get kids outside and running via clinics. The initial program will be soccer and is scheduled to start on Sept. 14. It will run for four weeks before transitioning to four weeks each of basketball, softball and tee-ball. Flag football, if permitted, may be offered. The entire program is expected to end just before the winter holidays.

“People are hungry for any kind of activity for their kids beyond screen time and beyond being inside the house,” Templeton Recreation Department Supervisor Melissa Johnson said. “Kids are used to running from one sport to another or one program to another, and all of that stopped in March.”

The guidelines include six feet of social distancing throughout the hour-long practices and small teams or pods of no more than 10 members. The competition ban means that there will be no scrimmages or drills that promote contact with another individual but will instead focus on skill-building and conditioning.

“There are no games, and there are no competitions, no intermingling of two groups. If there are two teams on the same field, they will be separated,” Johnson said. “We are lining the fields so that each team has their own designated space, and they cannot leave that space except for restroom breaks. They will stay in that space until pick up and drop off. The space itself will just be a large rectangle. We are not lining the fields officially, so they won’t have the usual bells and whistles on the field. There will be no goalbox or penalty area so to discourage competition that way and to encourage individual skill-building.”

The Recreation Department has spent the last few weeks devising new drills and even revamping old classics and will provide coaches with visual practice plans they can pick and choose from to use with their teams.

However, playing in a pandemic does come with risks which the department has prepared for if someone, coach or player, contracts the coronavirus or begins exhibiting symptoms.

“Everybody who is registered has to sign a COVID waiver, but also has to agree to certain protocols,” Johnson stated. “If something like that [a positive test or COVID-19 symptoms] happens, they need to notify us and the County Health Department. We are not relying on someone else to notify us if your child becomes ill, we want to isolate them immediately, and the whole pod will go into quarantine until the test results come back for their group. If the test results are negative, then they can get back together, and we will make some accommodations to make up for the time lost but will also have an innate ability to cease all function for that group.”

The Templeton Recreation Department will be using two fields in Templeton — Evers Sports Park and Tom Jermin Sr. Community Park. It is planning to offer the program to children as young as 4 years old up to high school-age athletes looking to get in shape before their return to sports in the winter.

Registration for soccer is expected to open on Friday, Aug. 14, if Johnson receives the final all-clear from San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein and her office. Johnson is confident they will get cleared.

“I have no doubt that we will have this approved,” Johnson said.

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