As soon as Los Angeles County schools were cleared to host socially-distanced sports conditioning sessions, Mayfield Athletic Director Steve Bergen jumped into action to get our Cubs back to Bellefontaine. Next week, more than 100 Mayfield students will return to campus for a five-week series of outdoor workouts in tightly-regulated “pods.” The excitement is palpable, but Coach Bergen’s bottom line is: “We’re going to follow the rules.” We sat down with him to celebrate this next step and to talk about what to expect over the next few weeks.
Let’s hop into the Way Back Machine. When we first had to leave campus last Spring, when did you imagine we’d be coming back to 500 Bellefontaine?
I very vividly remember sitting in a meeting when we just made the decision, a week before spring break. We had a swim meet scheduled in Northern California the next weekend, and I said, “The meet's probably going to be canceled. But you know, I think what's going to happen is we're going to be away a week—we’re just taking an extra week before spring break.” I'd never been in a pandemic before, so I had no idea! But I remember thinking it was going to be two or three weeks tops.
What has it been the biggest hurdle when it came to having organized athletics again?
Our calendar is governed by the CIF calendar. They are the governing body that oversees high school sports in the state. Obviously football is a major driving force but from the very beginning CIF said that they would not set up a calendar that allowed some sports to be able to have their seasons and not others—it was going to be an all-or-nothing thing.
Obviously we are months away from any competition. But when did you start to see a glimmer of hope that girls might be able to come back to campus, even in a more informal set-up?
As August went on, I think a lot of people took their cues from professional sports leagues, soccer and baseball were the first one to start theirs. (I knew I had a problem when I was staying up till one or two in the morning to watch Korean baseball, before any Americans sports got back!) There was some excitement when we saw schools starting to dip their toe in the water of getting back on campus and starting to attempt these conditioning sessions. But I was tempering my excitement, because I wanted to be back on campus, I wanted our girls to be on campus—but every time it seemed like we took a step forward, we took two steps back. We were working on plans but we needed Pasadena Health Department to sign off. It was really exciting when they did!
Mayfield’s athletic conditioning is starting next week. What was the reaction from our community when you made the announcement?
There were lots of questions, but most of the feedback I was getting from parents was just excitement for their daughters—they know how important this is just for people's mental wellbeing. I've tried to temper people's excitement as far as games and practices and teams. This is just a chance to get outside and get some exercise. And everyone is thrilled just even at that prospect of being on campus. Again the mental wellbeing is probably the most important aspect of the whole thing, even more than the physical exercise aspect of it.
There must have been a lot of planning behind this. Will there be a lot of restrictions and adaptations?
Oh, yeah. The County has been very clear on K-12 sports right now that you can do conditioning, and that is the limit. You cannot have teams. We can't even have a scrimmage with a volleyball net where you have four girls on one side, four on the other—you have one partner and you and that partner share one ball. You can pair up two girls, but those same two girls now have to be paired for five weeks straight. They can't pair up with anybody else. And we're going to adhere to that. Our girls are going to be in cohorts, these pods of 12 girls with one coach—the coaches can't even move from pod to pod over the five weeks. We're going to follow the rules. The fact that we're just doing it is the most exciting thing for me. I'm just so glad the girls will be able to get outside.
Want to give us any tips, or guidance, as we embark on this new chapter with Mayfield girls back on campus in this way?
For months we've been looking for hope or light at the end of the tunnel, or just some sign that we might be getting back to normal. And, I hope that people see that getting a hundred girls on campus next week is a great step in the right direction! But we need to continue to follow all the rules, in our personal lives, at home—when we're out and about, and when we're on campus, everybody needs to keep following the rules. And hopefully this is a sign that things are getting back to normal.
If you have questions about the sports conditioning program, please contact Athletic Director Steve Bergen.