One part of California has approved the start of high school sports practices as soon as Saturday, Jan. 16, but teams must adhere to strict social distancing rules.
The executive committee for the Central Coast Section, the governing body for high school athletics in five northern California counties — San Mateo, Santa Clara, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz — and a few private schools in San Francisco, approved plans this week for sports teams to return to practice amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A handful of sports are scheduled to return to competition Jan. 25, though no competition can be held until local stay-at-home orders are lifted, and the section left it up to leagues to move the seasons of all sports as they see fit.
The CCS prioritized practice and physical activity for young athletes, knowing that competition will not necessarily be feasible in all sports this winter and spring.
“First and foremost, let’s get kids out and be active,” CCS commissioner Dave Grissom said Friday. “From a social-emotional well-being standpoint, our kids generally are struggling. This pandemic has been brutal on everyone, but it’s been really hard for our kids and we have a responsibility for them if we can do things in a safe way. Everyone wants our kids to get back on the field if we can.”
The only downside for leagues moving low-contact sports — those allowed to play in the state’s purple tier — into the section’s Season 1 (Jan. 25 start date) is missing out on the possibility of playoffs. There is no postseason in Season 1, while there may yet be one for Season 2 (starting in March), depending on local health orders at that time. The North Coast Section, which announced its plans Thursday to rearrange its whole schedule to allow low-contact sports first, eliminated playoff plans for both seasons.
“Let’s be honest, there’s no way (playoffs) were going to happen (in Season 1),” Grissom said. “The purpose is to allow for more flexibility to create schedules to meet the needs of the schools.”
Current health guidelines prohibit tournaments and do not allow competition between schools that are further than one county away from each other.
The overarching issue remains that no competitions will begin until California’s stay-at-home order is lifted in the Bay Area. Currently, all counties in both the NCS and CCS are in the most-restrictive purple tier as the state battles a devastating coronavirus surge.
But the lifted stay-at-home orders in the greater Sacramento area are giving Bay Area officials some hope. Right now, the only sport that can be played without a schedule realignment — a purple-tier sport that falls in Season 1 — is cross country. But the East Bay’s Diablo Athletic League already announced Friday afternoon that it was rearranging its schedule to move purple-tier sports up in its calendar to allow for more competition.
Here’s a breakdown of the CIF’s tiered sports:
Purple: cross country, golf, tennis, track and field, swimming and diving.
Red: baseball, softball, girls lacrosse, field hockey.
Orange: football, boys lacrosse, soccer, water polo, badminton, volleyball.
Yellow: competitive cheerleading, basketball, wrestling.
In both sections, football will have to wait until counties reach the orange tier before it can start, though CCS leagues have the flexibility to change their target start date.
The NCS says its football season must end by April 17 for practice to start as scheduled on Aug. 9 for the 2021 season, though some coaches have expressed a willingness to move the fall season back in order to play at least a truncated season with graduating seniors this spring.