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State releases guidance for youth, recreation, prep sports
Bulletin sports 2020-21
Ripon Christian junior varsity football coach Michael Dotinga oversees the program's summertime conditioning practice in June. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

After months of anticipation, the California Department of Public Health has finally released its guidance and a possible start date for competition of youth and high school sports.

The good news is that some sports can take place this academic school year even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state. Based on the state's color-tiered reopening plan, CDPH's updated guidelines revealed Monday that outdoor low-contact sports such as cross country, golf, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field may be permitted in counties that remain in the most restrictive purple tier. 

Inter-team competitions may begin Jan. 25, 2021, though the date will be reassessed on Jan. 4. This guidance also applies to adult recreational sports, community-sponsored programs and private clubs and leagues. The California Interscholastic Federation and California Association of Recreation and Park Districts consulted with the CDPH in categorizing sports according to risk of coronavirus transmission. 

Counties promoted to the less-restrictive red tier may begin outdoor moderate-contact sports. Included are baseball, softball and cheerleading. 

Outdoor high-contact sports such as football, soccer and water polo along with indoor low-contact sports like volleyball fall under the orange tier. Indoor moderate- and high-contact sports — basketball, wrestling, martial arts — are in the yellow tier. 

Limited spectators are permitted only at youth-level practices and games. School districts and local health departments may have stricter rules for high school contests. 

As for competitions, teams are forbidden to participate in out-of-state events. Most games may only involve two teams from the same county or bordering counties that are in the same tier. Events involving three or more teams are not permitted in California, though exceptions could be made by local health departments for outdoor low-contact sports.

Athletes are still allowed to meet with their youth, adult and school teams for physical conditioning and skill-building drills as long as they are outdoors and practicing social distancing.