Monday is when youth and high schools sports competitions may begin in California amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Well, some sports, and in some parts of California.
The state's regional stay-at-home order has not yet been lifted in the San Joaquin Valley, and sports may not start in the Manteca area until that happens. The Bay Area and Southern California regions also remain locked down.
On Dec. 5, the stay-at-home order was triggered in regions that had less than 15% available adult intensive care unit beds. The order may be lifted when four-week projections of available ICU beds are greater than or equal to 15%. As of Friday, ICU availability in the San Joaquin Valley remained at zero percent.
The Greater Sacramento region broke free of the lockdown on Jan. 12. Sac-Joaquin Section Vice commissioner Will DeBoard said high schools in that area already have plans to hold cross country events right away with golf and tennis matches following suit. The SJS is one of 10 Sections in the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for prep sports in the state.
“Our first step for high school sports is definitely getting out of the stay-at-home order,” DeBoard said, adding that the CIF is “100 percent bound to what the state's public health department tells us.”
The SJS Board of Managers meets via teleconference next Tuesday to discuss how its schools can move forward with athletics under California Department of Public Health guidelines released on Dec. 14. The new guidelines included a breakdown of sports allowed according to the state's color-tiered reopening plan.
All counties in the SJS remain in the most-restrictive purple tier (widespread), but outdoor sports like cross country, golf, swim and tennis and track are permitted as long as the regional stay-at-home order is lifted. Baseball and softball are in the red tier (substantial) , football, soccer and volleyball in the orange tier (moderate) and basketball, cheer and wrestling in the yellow (minimal).
The CIF has been lobbying for CDPH to relax its guidelines and allow all sports in the purple and red tiers. For now, schools within regions not limited by the stay-at-home order have the green light to play whatever sports are available to them.
Union Mine High in El Dorado County is hosting a four-team cross country meet on Monday. While CDPH guidance has restrictions on county-to-county travel and multi-opponent competitions, it is allowed for individual sports such as cross country, golf and tennis, as long as participating teams get the go-ahead from local county health departments.
Scheduling will become tricky as schools within the SJS cover 16 counties in three regions. The Section’s Executive Committee met Thursday and came up with a proposal to essentially dissolve its current “Season 1” and “Season 2” calendars. The proposal will be presented at the Board of Managers meeting.
Season 1 includes traditional fall sports, while Season 2 combines winter and spring sports. The SJS aims to allow its schools to play sports as they become available in accordance with the state’s tiered system. For example, a spring sport such as baseball could take place before football, a fall sport.
“We realize that a one-size-fits-all schedule does not work with the situation we are in now,” DeBoard said. We’re proposing to allow our leagues to come up with their own sports calendars.”
The CIF is pushing back the start of orange- and yellow-tier sports as late as possible. The CIF Sports Medicine Advisory Committee has said that the earliest teams can start playing football this spring is April 17 with safety concerns in mind for a quick turnaround into the fall 2021 season. Football teams are required to have three weeks and 14 days of practice before playing a game.
Whenever sports are allowed for area schools, athletic directors and coaches will be scrambling to put together schedules. DeBoard envisions many teams playing independent schedules because of the travel restrictions that would hinder leagues comprising of schools from multiple counties. He added that the Section will not allow schools to form new and temporary leagues.
“The goal at this point isn’t winning Section titles and league titles,” DeBoard said. “The goal is to get the kids out there in the field of play however we can do it.”