And we thought this was the week high school sports would return

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY—Since July 20 high school athletes, their parents, coaches and school administrators looked forward to this week for high school sports to return in California. Well, like darn near everything else in 2020 since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the state in March, it was not to be.

California Interscholastic Federation, the organization in charge of high school sports, announced last July that the stoppage of all high school sports which began in March would continue through the beginning of December. CIF set this month as the target for the beginning of formal practices for football, water polo, volleyball and cross county athletes and teams.

Last week CIF made the not unexpected announcement that “due to the continued surge in COVID-19 infections, the California Department of Public Health has postponed the issuance of its updated youth sports guidance.”

The statement added “CIF does not expect the CDPH will issue any guidance allowing for schools to return to full practice and competition until after Jan. 1 at the earliest. Thus, all full practice and competition start dates are officially on hold until updated guidance is issued.”

High school sports in the state came to a screeching halt last March when California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the first major state-wide measures in response to the rapidly spreading pandemic. That meant the state high school basketball playoffs were halted days before the championship games and all spring sports were canceled.

The Dec. 1 CIF statement added “to provide the 10 CIF Sections, our 1,605 member schools and more than 800,000 student-athletes the best opportunity to compete in Season 1 sports, once allowed by the CDPH and local county offices of public health, the CIF State Office is removing all regional and state championship events from the Season 1 sports calendar. By canceling regional and state championship events, more student-athletes will have the opportunity to participate in a longer season, rather than a truncated season with regional and state post-season play for a limited number of schools.

NCS reacts to news

NCS commissioner Pat Cruickshank also issued a statement last week. “I know that many of you are frustrated with the lack of guidance up to this point, we as a section and statewide as commissioners are also very frustrated with the same thing.

“The CIF’s continued efforts to work with our State has unfortunately produced no updated guidelines on their part. As a result, the CIF has decided to cancel their Regional championships for Season 1 so as to give sections another week of play. Additionally, boys volleyball will move back into Season 2 in hopes of giving them back a full season that was lost last year.

“As a section, we will continue to wait on updated guidelines from CDPH. I do not anticipate any guidance from them until after the holidays…When we have those guidelines we will move accordingly to begin season 1. In the meantime, schools may continue to do what counties allow currently but may not start practice under those current guidelines. We have also targeted Jan. 19 as a date to alert our schools about a decision to either continue with section championships or give those weeks back to our leagues to extend league play.”

North Coast Section had developed three reduced seasons of competition from January to June aligned with CIF regional and state playoff formats. Now those plans are all up for review with Season 1 practice delayed and the domino effect that has on the entire tentative schedule. The CIF statement moving boys volleyball from Season 1 to Season 2 will put an added strain on gymnasium use during that time with boys and girls basketball and wrestling plus cheer also in Season 2.

Cruickshank added a call to action: “I urge you all, to ask your communities, in the name of our kids, to wear a mask, practice the proper social distancing guidelines, and to think about our kids and our schools when making decisions around gatherings this holiday season. There is still a chance that we can have a season, but that won’t happen until some things change. We have control and power over what we do, and I hope that we all use that power to influence a change!”