After pandemic shutdown, Comets sports return to life 


Joseph Porrello

Midfielder Javier Villa tries to create some offense for the Comets against the Marin College Mariners in San Pablo, Calif., at Contra Costa College, on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Photo/Joseph Porrello)

By Joseph Porrello , Staff Writer

Sports programs at Contra Costa College are beginning to move toward normalcy again after nearly two years, albeit with some new restrictions. 

Interviews last month with athletic department leaders as well as student athletes provide an in-depth view of how sports at our school were affected during the pandemic. 

“I think we’re moving in the right direction, I’m excited, I feel like we can start to turn the page and get back to where we want to be,” said Contra Costa College Athletic Director John Wade. 

Student athletes and fans alike need to either have proof of vaccination or a negative test for indoor sports activities. Attendees are still strongly advised to research the rules of the county where away games are being held before making the trip to avoid any confusion or disappointment.

For now, other health protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing are in accordance with county guidelines – such as indoor events requiring masks, but not outdoor events.

Although progress is being made, pandemic related adversities such as anxiety are lingering with some student athletes.

Baseball players in particular were fearful when their season was cancelled because of the unknown timetable for a return that has finally come. 

“I think a lot of the guys did have anxiety when things were cut short,” said Contra Costa baseball coach Brian Guinn of his team. 

The Comets baseball team has not played more than half a season since 2019, so the coach and his players are relishing the idea of a full season in 2022. 

Without sports, many student athletes lose their outlet for aggression and all the benefits that come along with team camaraderie, some say.

The college implemented some tools, like mental health checks, where students can chat with a qualified person about pandemic related issues they’re having. But what athletes say really want is to get back out there and play, and that is finally happening. 

Overall, Contra Costa College is not struggling with enrollment in sports programs or retaining coaches due to the pandemic, Wade noted. 

The football program is especially robust. 

“Our football team is dressing seventy players,” he said, suggesting that it’s part of why the team is still undefeated after beating the formally undefeated Foothill College squad on Oct. 23. Said Wade of the Comets football team, “I think this group has a championship in them, and hopefully more.”

However, Wade did note that one particular program could use some uplifting. 

“We need softball players badly,”  he said. The athletic director said that the school is currently in the process of hiring a new softball coach to hopefully help lead the team in the right direction, as they currently have no head coach. 

Another aspect of the pandemic that affected CCC student athletes was the transfer process and how they were being recruited. 

“There was a lot of uncertainty about where they were going to go and what they were going to do,” Guinn explained. “The recruitment process was really backed up with the four year schools.” 

The more surprising it was, then, to hear the coach share that seven out of nine eligible players of his transferred to play at four year colleges. 

Fortunately for college sports across the U.S, players received an extra year of eligibility for their lost time. It’s not entirely beneficial for community college sports programs, though. With four-year college athletes competing for the same spots as two-year students transferring to schools, athletic scholarships become more competitive. 

“It hurts community college players more and more because the four year players get their year back too, so there’s less scholarships to go around,” said Wade.

“Everyone lost a year, as far as age is concerned,” added Guinn. 

For many student athletes, the joy of being back to competing and playing overrules anything else. 

Contra Costa College freshman student athlete Huriel Rodriguez said that he’s just very thankful to be back on the soccer field with his teammates for real games again after only being able to train with small groups of players since graduating high school in 2020.