With the recent news regarding high school sports after the announcement Friday, Feb. 19, by the California Department of Public Health, as it pertains to tiers and start dates, things can be confusing. The California Interscholastic Federation tried hard to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and deserve much credit in keeping the hope alive for high school student athletes, their families, coaches, school administrators and fans. They are allowing athletes and coaches to participate in more than one sport at a time.

A recent rule change announced by the CIF will allow high school athletes and coaches in California to be involved with more than one sport or team at any time for the rest of this school year. They said the change was made after consulting with the CDHP. There is one major exception to the revised rule – football.

If Riverside County dips below 14 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, high school boys’ and girls’ soccer teams can begin competition Feb. 27. Valley News/File photo

Now, athletes in all sports, except football, will be able to participate in activities such as games and practices with more than one team – high school or club – at the same time, and only for this school year. This revision also affects coaches.

The change was made after clarification from the CDPH came out about the “cohorts” portion of the high school and youth sports guidelines. That so-called “cohort” guideline – a cohort is essentially a team – said that anyone involved in high school sports should “refrain from participating with more than one team over the same season or time period.” The change was made to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

An indoor volleyball season may not happen this school year as the recent return-to-pay update shows the sport was moved backward from the orange tier to the yellow tier. Valley News/File photo

“We have confirmed that their specific language regarding cohorting and multi-team participation is not a mandate, but a recommendation,” the CIF said in a statement. “Therefore, effective immediately, the CIF is reinstating its waiver of Bylaws 600-605. The only exception is the sport of football.”

Those bylaws deal with participation in “outside” competition, such as club teams, when a high school team is in season. Basketball players, for example, cannot play for their high school team and club team at the same time. In the summer, the CIF said it was rescinding those bylaws this school year to give athletes more opportunities while sports were being affected by the pandemic. But after the CDPH changed its guidelines in December, the CIF had to reinstate the outside competition rule, which it changed again recently after consulting with the CDPH.

With that bylaw change being made clear, again, it is time to focus on what the latest return-to-play news could mean for high school sports schedules. Here is a sport-by-sport explainer as to when a specific sport could be able to begin competition.

For this year only, athletes in all sports, except football, will be able to participate in games and practices with more than one team, high school or club, at the same time. Valley News/AC Sports photo

Football

The CIF-SS released an extremely specific schedule for a return to football activity based on when your county reaches the 14-case-per-100,000-residents mark, the new threshold to allow outdoor contact sports to begin.

The state releases new county data every Tuesday.

If your county is under 14 cases by Tuesday, Feb. 23: Players may start conditioning with helmets, T-shirts and shorts Feb. 23-25. Their first full day of pads can be Feb. 26. Interscholastic scrimmages can begin as of March 6 and teams can play a 6-game schedule beginning Friday, March 12.

If your county goes under 14 cases by Tuesday, March 2: Players may start conditioning with helmets, T-shirts and shorts March 2-4. Their first full day of pads can be March 5. Interscholastic scrimmages can begin as of March 13 and can play a 5-game schedule beginning Friday, March 19.

If your county goes under 14 cases by Tuesday, March 9:  Players may start conditioning with helmets, T-shirts and shorts March 9-11. Their first full day of pads can be March 12. Interscholastic scrimmages can begin as of March 20 and can play a four-game schedule beginning Friday, March 26.

If your county reaches the required threshold after the dates and scenarios listed above, then schools still have the option to play three, two or one game if they wish to do so, provided they follow CIF bylaws mandating a minimum of 10 days of practice before a scrimmage and 14 days of practice before a first contest.

The last allowable date for football competition is April 17.

Water polo

If your county is under 14 cases per 100,000 residents, boys’ and girls’ water polo may begin practice and competition Feb. 26. The season’s end date is now set at March 20.

Cross-country

Boys’ and girls’ cross-country was not affected by last week’s announcement and was already allowed to participate in the purple tier. Its season-ending date is March 27.

Girls’ tennis

Girls’ tennis can begin Feb. 22, with dual matches only, regardless of case rate.

Soccer

If your county is under 14 cases per 100,000 residents, boys’ and girls’ soccer can begin competition Feb. 27. It is a big improvement based on last week’s announcement as soccer would not have been able to start until case rates were below four cases per 100,000 before the updated guidelines.

Boys’ tennis

Boys’ tennis can begin competition with dual meets only March 1, regardless of case rate.

Swimming

Boys’ and girls’ swimming can begin March 13 with dual meets only, regardless of case rates.

Baseball and Softball

If the county is under 14 cases per 100,000 residents, baseball and softball can start March 19. This is a big improvement for these sports, which would have needed the case rate to be below seven cases per 100,000 before last week’s announcement.

Track and Field

Boys’ and girls’ track and field can begin March 20 with dual meets only regardless of case rate.

Golf

Boys’ and girls’ golf can begin March 20 with dual matches only regardless of case rate.

Indoor sports

Sports played indoors were not affected positively by last week’s announcement. The CIF-SS said they are still in discussions with the governor’s office and CDPH on a return-to-play plan. Meanwhile, they did say any indoor sports can play outside.

“If possible, indoor sports can begin to play outdoors, if your county meets the required threshold of 14 cases or less per 100,000 people,” the CIF-SS said in a news release.

The outdoor versions of indoor sports would have to follow the following schedule:

Girls’ volleyball: Feb. 16 with season ending March 20. Unfortunately, the concept of an indoor volleyball season is all but eliminated at this point. Volleyball, in fact, was moved backward from the orange tier to the yellow tier, meaning the county would have to be below 1 case per 100,000. With the season set to end March 20, it looks like the option for them is to play outside.

Competitive cheer: Can start outdoor events whenever the county dips below 14 cases.

Boys’ and girls’ wrestling: Outdoor matches can be held starting March 5, dual matches only, if the county dips below 14 cases. It can be done as Jody Davis, the wrestling coach who is now at Shadow Hills, has hosted some outdoor wrestling matches before.

Boys’ and girls’ basketball: March 12 is the start of the basketball season when outdoor matches could be held as of this time. The #LetThemPlayCA movement is pressuring the CIF-SS to push the state to allow some form of indoor basketball at some point, but as of now there is no opening for indoor basketball until the county is in the yellow tier.

Boys’ volleyball: Outdoors only beginning March 13 seems to be the only avenue for this sport now.

*As changes come about, we will post them online.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.