How Bay Area residents are getting their social-distance sports fix

Runners and bikers are everywhere.

With more time in the day and fewer cars on the road, it’s a nice way to exercise and see the sights. For those preferring other ways to do sports at a distance, it has been a bit tougher during the coronavirus pandemic, but some people have found creative ways to get their fix.

This reporter explored his county seeking examples.

Rich Juarez (right) and college football player Hunter Juarez do a drill with a battle rope in Tiburon.

Staying ready

Hunter Juarez and Ben Skinner would be at spring football practice at their respective colleges, College of Idaho and Cal, but instead are at home, sheltering. Gym work would be part of their routines, but gyms have been closed.

Instead, they’ve been working with Juarez’s dad, Rich, an assistant football coach at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield who has trained athletes for years.

Each day brings a different high-intensity workout, and this particular day at a Tiburon middle school includes a battle rope wrapped around a basketball pole and resistance bands tied to a chain-link fence.

“A lot of people don’t understand that football is a year-round sport,” said Skinner, 19. “When time is taken away, it’s difficult for guys.”

“It’s unfortunate, for sure, not able to work on our routes and craft,” said Hunter Juarez, 21. “We just hope we have a football season.”

After a drill at one station, the group goes to another. From the battle rope to the resistance bands to various forms of push-ups. The idea is to simulate the movements they’d make in a weight room, while maintaining their distance.

“This forces us to be creative, and it’s a nice change,” said Rich Juarez, 56.

Rob Fordyce shoots a basketball in front of his house in San Rafael. He also hits tennis balls against a building.

‘My own little playground’

Between two busy streets, on the back side of a health club and alongside the construction of townhouses, it’s noticeably peaceful and tranquil. Rob Fordyce is either shooting hoops on the basket in front of his San Rafael home or hitting tennis balls against the building across the street.

“My own little playground,” Fordyce said.

A musician and music teacher, the 51-year-old hasn’t been able do any gigs, and his teaching has been cut back other than Zoom lessons.

Before restrictions were implemented, Fordyce had been playing indoor basketball with a local group and tennis at nearby Albert Park, which is closed. He has remained active outdoors by being resourceful — that’s been vital after the recent death of his cat: “This helps with my grieving process,” he said.

Smiling and upbeat, Fordyce is making the best of a rough time but enjoys taking advantage of the weather and his surroundings. Still, he’d prefer a form of normalcy so he can return to work and his usual activities.

“I’m looking forward to this being over so I can be back on the court,” he said.

Exercise with a view

Paddle boarding had been in the back of Sarah Lent’s and Sam Petrie’s minds, but they didn’t engage in the sport until the pandemic.

Sarah Lent (left) and Sam Petrie paddleboard while enjoying the view near the shores in Sausalito.

“I’ve been wanting to get one for a while,” said Lent, 40. “All of a sudden, we have a shelter in place, and now was the time to do it.”

Her buddy had a board in her basement because a friend had left it there. “Wait a minute,” said Petrie, 44, “I’ve got a board. Let’s go.”

They’ve become regulars off the shores of Sausalito, where distancing generally is mandatory in any climate. But now, it’s a perfect way to exercise while enjoying views of San Francisco and the bay.

“Getting out on the water is a completely different perspective than riding a bike or running a trail,” Petrie said. “Everyone should get outside every day regardless.”

Most times, Lent will have her 6-year-old stepson aboard.

“Everyone’s super respectful in the water, even the boats,” she said. “It’s like a community out there. The seals come up and say hi to you. My stepson named one of the them Mellie.”

Golf course becomes ball field

On what used to be the 12th fairway of the San Geronimo Valley Golf Course (which closed in 2018), a game breaks out on any given night. A wooden bat, a bucket of tennis balls and a beautiful landscape is all that’s needed for the Chavez family to take a few swings.

Eddie Joe Chavez bats against Neal Chavez as Buck Chavez and Nicole Chavez play the field in San Geronimo.

“My pop always said you don’t need a team to play. Just play,” Buck Chavez said.

Everyone takes turns pitching, hitting and shagging. There’s no score. No teams. No rules. Just play — at a distance. All casual. At one point, hardly anyone noticed when a guy zoomed through the game and up a hill on an electronic one-wheeled skateboard.

Chavez is a physical education teacher at the school next to this makeshift field in West Marin, and his brother, Eddie Joe, helps oversee the nightly events at the usually bustling gymnasium. Nowadays, everything’s shut down.

“I’ve always been a team sport guy and need someone to play with or against,” said Eddie Joe, 64, a former point guard at Santa Clara University who played for Panama’s national team. “This is a pandemic-generated exercise.”

The Chavezes are a basketball family — Buck’s son, Skylar, is a starter at Pepperdine — but these days, anything goes. As a bonus, Eddie Joe’s dog, Baloo, is willing to chase down any grounder or flyball.

“For us, it’s been like Christmas,” said Buck, 59, whose five kids have spent time at home. “It’s a conflicting vibe. I’m empathetic toward people having a battle in a tough time. But you don’t want to feel guilty about your blessings — my brother hasn’t pitched to me since I was 5 years old.

“If everyone took a couple of rips and watched that dog run, the world would be a kinder place.”

John Shea is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @JohnSheaHey

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *