High school sports in California will not start before Jan. 25, according to the updated youth sports guidelines posted to the state’s Department of Public Health website on Monday night.
This is not a surprise. As long as the guidelines do not cancel or eliminate sports, there remains hope for the 815,000 or so student-athletes in the state who have been on hold. Many of those teenagers have done distance learning since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in March. Area student-athletes have been vocal about their frustrations of not playing, citing a mental toll.
It has been nearly five months since the governing body California Interscholastic Federation laid out its 2020-21 sports calendar after a summer of the virus surge, a process that required updates and guidance from health departments.
No school-based sporting events have played out in California this fall, though club sports such as soccer, softball and baseball included out-of-state tournaments, now put on hold with the updated guidelines. Club football has also seen interest, including a Sacramento effort to get a team into a Southern California league next month.
For high school football or volleyball to start in January, February or March, per the initial plan released by the CIF in July, counties would have to get into a favorable level of the state’s color-tiered system on COVID-19 that tracks positivity rates.
Sacramento and surrounding counties Placer, Yolo and El Dorado have for weeks been in the most restrictive purple tier. With Gov. Newsom’s latest shut down last week, area prep teams have suspended sports activities.
Football and volleyball, the headliner fall sports, would not be able to start practices or compete in scrimmages or games until their counties clear the most restrictive purple and red tiers and drop down into the moderate orange tier. One concerning hurdle is the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays, a time for family gatherings, leading to what county health officials and Newsom consider risky.
Prep sports that allow for social distancing, such as badminton, cross country, golf, swim and dive, tennis, and track and field can start in the coming months even if counties are in the most restrictive purple tier. Baseball, cheer, girls lacrosse and softball would be allowed under the red tier.
The CIF and its 10 section commissioners will be in contact with each other to lay out revised sports calendars. Each office will continue to be in touch with state and county health officials.
The primary winter sport is basketball, which normally would include tournaments this time of year. Basketball, according to the new guidelines, cannot be played indoors until that county is in the minimal yellow tier. That sport was pushed to March with the first CIF calendar.
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