After months of speculation and uncertainty about the 2020-2021 high school sports season, the CIF State and Southern Section announced recently how it will adjust the sports calendar to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. With most public and private schools in Southern California set to begin the school year in August with distance learning, the plan is to transition to on-campus classes once health officials and school districts allow for it.
The CIF State office, which governs high school athletics in California, passed down the decision Monday, July 20, at 9 a.m., and as most anticipated, the announcement was made that high school sports are being canceled until late December or early January. Of course, all is not lost, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. High school sports have been approved to begin in December. Yes, there are hopes of starting months earlier if the pandemic is controlled enough to allow for it, but at the rate at which positive coronavirus cases are climbing, there is no reason to go down that rabbit hole.
The most notable surprise that came from the news release that Rob Wigod, commissioner of the CIF Southern Section, sent out was that instead of conducting three shortened seasons of winter, fall and spring sports, there will now only be two seasons. The statement said there will be a fall season and a spring season, but with contests not starting until December for most normal fall sports programs, the winter weather will for sure show its face. The calendar for the two sports seasons, as most expected, looks a lot like what the California Community Colleges announced a few weeks ago.
“I agree with the decision,” John Broussard, athletic director of Murrieta Mesa High School, said. “I think they did the best they could during this unprecedented time. The most challenging will be structuring facility use for example soccer and lacrosse during the same season with track. Scheduling contest let alone training session will be tricky.”
It appears the calendar will help preserve longer section playoffs, state regional playoffs and allows teams to play a longer season, which were three things CIF and coaches and athletic directors were hoping to accomplish. Unfortunately, it appears this change will impact dual-sport athletes and dual-sport coaches the most because of crossover dates.
“When it comes to individual impact, the multi-sport athlete is hit the worse because this structure really limits that opportunity,” Broussard said. “From an HR standpoint I have multi-sport coaches, so finding ways to fill any holes will present a challenge. Overall, I think it is doable. The program who says they can’t succeed during this time is probably right. The program who says they can succeed is also right. Perspective is everything. At Mesa, we will get it done and continue to serve our athletes and families well.”
The most shocking news announced was that because the new schedule doesn’t coincide with the traditional season of club sports for soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball and others, CIF will not be making athletes choose between their high school and club teams. Instead in an unprecedented move, athletes will be able to compete simultaneously with club teams during the high school season of their sport. This move is going to open a whole new can of worms in the coming months.
“This begs the question about what is more important,” Jamie Duncan, a parent with an athlete in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, said. “My daughter plays volleyball, and most of her recruiting gets done in the showcase realm. It will weigh heavy on her to miss a high school game to go to a tournament, and vice versa.”
Though there is still time to work out some of the kinks when it comes to top tournaments for club teams, and the significance of high school sports, there are still so many other things on the forefront for school administrators, coaches, players, families, etc. Scheduling buses for team sports is one of the many challenges for athletic directors, and it only gets harder in a district with several high schools. Plus, the schedules for every sport and every level must be reworked based on the altered dates set by CIF-SS and CIF.
“I think the CIF did a great job with a tough situation,” Doug Soles, head cross-country and distance track coach at Great Oak High School. “Most sports will get a pretty normal season, and that is great. Everyone will have to work together to get field space to work, especially in the spring. Adapt for one year and then back to normal. We all can do that.”
The decision by the CIF buys everyone some time to establish a better way of knowing how to proceed.
“At the end of the day, we have to get this right,” Wigod said in a virtual meeting with the media recently. “We’re dealing with other people’s children, and their safety is what this is all about.”
Here is what the fall sports season will look like:
- The CIF-SS will allow football teams to begin practice Dec. 14 and play their Week 1 games Jan. 8. The sit-out period will end Feb. 8. The schedule allows for 10 regular-season contests ending March 12, with CIF-SS playoffs running from March 19 through the CIF-SS finals April 9-10. The CIF state championship bowl games will be April 16-17, with no state championships.
- Boys’ and girls’ volleyball would be beginning games Dec. 19, and boys and girls water polo would begin competing Dec. 21. The CIF-SS water polo championships would be March 6, with regional finals March 19-20.
- For volleyball and water polo, section championships would be March 13 with state regional championships through March 20.
- The cross-country section finals would conclude March 20, with state competition concluding March 27.
- The springs sports season would include baseball, softball and boys’ and girls’ basketball, soccer, tennis, track and field, swimming, badminton, golf and competitive cheer.
- Boys’ and girls’ basketball sectional finals would be completed June 12 with state regional playoffs finishing June 19.
- The section championships for soccer, swimming and tennis would end May 29 with state regional playoffs concluding by June 5.
- Baseball, softball and track and field sectional finals would be completed by June 19, with state regional finals June 26.
“I really see potential conflict in competition schedules being the biggest issue,” Jenn Beech, swim coach of Murrieta Mesa, said.
At this point, many parents are also already dissecting the schedule and pushing out real good questions that hopefully will get answered in the coming months.
“This will be interesting,” Kristi Aguirre, a local high school sports mother and photographer, said. “How will boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and track use the same field? Also, I know with Heritage High School, almost the entire boys’ volleyball team consists of football players, so they probably won’t have players to field a team. Plus, you have soccer players that do track too. Heritage and Paloma share a pool so it will be interesting to see how boys’ and girls’ water polo will share a pool, and some of the coaches are the same. I know tough decisions had to be made, but I think combining the sports into two seasons will hurt a lot of programs.”
“So, we can eat outside, workout outside, get haircuts outside, shop retail outside and more, but we cannot play team sports outside? It’s so lopsided and confusing,” Kerry Rodda, local high school sports mother, said.
“At least there is something to hold on to,” Chris Blaschak, Vista Murrieta father, said. “This is going to really affect multi-sport athletes.”
The true test is going to come in the next few months, and what happens with the spread of COVID-19. For now, there is some hope that high school sports will be played, and that alone, has the masses excited. To follow the latest CIF Southern Section updates, visit www.cifss.org. The Valley News Sports Department will be checking in with local student athletes and will post that story in next week’s issue.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.