COVID restrictions force youth sports families out of Bay Area

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — 2020 saw competitive youth sports sidelined due to COVID-19 public health orders.

Now, some families are choosing to leave the Bay Area to give their student-athletes a chance to continue pursuing their dreams of competing on the next level.

COVID-19 public health orders banning contact sports in locations throughout California is not only impacting professional sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers, temporarily relocating to the state of Arizona. Some young athletes are packing up and leaving the Golden State as well.

“We have a house and now my entire family is moving to Texas,” Sydney Japić, who is relocating from Palo Alto to Texas, said.

“A high school kid that I know move to Georgia,” Laney College defensive back Lionel Anderson said.

The director of Silicon Valley Eagles Soccer Academy says there is one simple reason some families of young aspiring athletes are leaving the Bay Area.

“All leagues have been canceled. All the competition in California has been canceled,” Nic Busette said. “Therefore you’re missing a very important component of player development.”

Dreams of competing on the college level are why 16-year-old, former Palo Alto resident Sydney Japić and her family moved to Texas.

“Being a really competitive soccer player, it was very difficult for me to not be able to play the sport that I love and I heard that girls in Texas were starting to play games,” Japić said. “Especially being in the middle of our recruiting process that was a really big deal for me.”

“My goal is to make it to the NFL,” Anderson said.

20-year-old Anderson talked about how the ban on contact sports impacts recruitment opportunities for athletes who are not leaving the Bay Area.

“With the impact of COVID, we weren’t able to have spring ball. They shut down our gyms,” Anderson said. “As far as recruitment, I wasn’t able to showcase my talents in person.”

His legendary head football coach John Beam talks about his concerns with California athletes moving away.

“We’ve seen certain student-athletes leave to go to Georgia and Utah and Florida to play and now with basketball you’re going to see more of an exodus and I am concerned about it,” Beam said.

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