By Juan Reyes
The Central Coast Section, the local governing body for schools stretching from San Francisco along the coast to King City, this week unveiled its plans for the fall sports season and beyond.
The governing board on Tuesday announced in a press release that mid-December is the targeted date that any type of high school athletic activity can take place.
The first season will feature fall sports: cross country, field hockey, football, water polo and volleyball and teams can start practicing on Dec. 14. They can play their first game Dec. 28 with the exception of football, which begins on Jan. 8.
The second season kicks off Feb. 22 with badminton, soccer and tennis taking place, followed by swimming and diving scheduled to begin March 8. Wrestling, basketball, baseball, golf, lacrosse, softball and track and field are slated to begin March 15.
Aptos High School athletic director Travis Fox said he believes the decision gives the schools some hope and direction. He said the news wasn’t a shock, especially with the current climate of Covid-19 cases throughout the world and locally.
“It also brings up many questions about the details but I think it gives us something to now start playing for,” he said.
Fox said the entire plan is logistically realistic, and he thinks the athletic community could come together to make sports happen for the kids.
The move from the CCS came a day after the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced that the start of the high school sports fall season was pushed back to December or January.
A combination of factors led to the CIF’s decision, including a spike in Covid-19 numbers in recent weeks and the fact that most school districts are starting the upcoming academic year with distance learning. If most campuses are closed for in-classroom teaching, it made little sense to open up campuses each afternoon for sports-only activities.
“The writing was on the wall of where this was headed,” Central Coast Section Commissioner Dave Grissom said. “I’m not surprised at all. (CIF) Executive Director Ron Nocetti was very open with us (each of the state’s 10 section commissioners), and we had long conversations on plans going forward for the new school year. With what we’ve seen recently (with a surge in coronavirus infections), it doesn’t come as a surprise at all.”
Even though the CIF is the de facto governing body for high school athletics, none of the 10 section executive committees that comprise the state have to go along with the updated CIF calendar.
However, should any section choose to go in a different direction, their schools wouldn’t be eligible to compete in a regional or state playoff tournament.
Based on the assumption that conditions improve over the next several months—and given the fluid nature of the coronavirus, that is hardly a given—most fall sports teams will start official practice in December or January.
The last day for section playoff competition in football is April 10, with one week for regional bowl games to be concluded by April 17.
The last volleyball and water polo section match—for both boys and girls—would be March 13, followed by a March 20 date to conclude regional/state competition.
For cross country, the last day of section competition is March 20 with the state meet likely to be held on March 27. Field hockey, traditional competitive cheer and gymnastics do not have regional/state playoff ties, so each section will determine the end date for the last day of section playoff competition.
Spring sports such as baseball, softball and track and field would end their regional and state championships on June 26.
The CIF also made another major ruling Monday, with the temporary suspension of bylaws 600 to 605, which forbade student-athletes from competing in the same sport during the same season for two different organizations.
The CIF will allow individuals to compete for an outside team at the same time they participate on their high school team for the 2020-21 calendar year only.
“I really applaud the CIF for what they did for this year because things are so fluid right now,” Grissom said. “Clubs are scrambling in how they’re going to build a season, so suspending rule 600 is a great idea.”
Watsonville High boys soccer coach Roland Hedgpeth said there’s the chance of students trying to play for their high school and club teams at the same time but he doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I’m not really worried about it because it’s happened with [Santa Cruz] Breakers Academy and everywhere else,” he said. “If they want to play with us, they’ll play with us. If they don’t that’s their choice and they can play where they want.”
Hedgpeth said it’s going to be tough because they might have to limit their squad, especially with trying to schedule practice and the season being cut by three to four weeks. He said his biggest concern is having three to four different sports teams attempting to use the same facilities at the same time.
Hedgpeth said he hopes that things will start to clear up by February to get a better feel of the situation. He said they might have to cut the freshman team, leaving just the JV and varsity teams so that everybody can get in some practice time.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do yet,” he said.
Fox said adding winter sports into the “second season” is going to be a community-building moment as far as scheduling practices, facility use, games, finding officials and coordinating. He said splitting all the sports into two seasons is something he hasn’t seen before but it makes sense.
Fox said multi-sports seniors will face the largest challenge: choosing between two sports.
“Some students are going to have to make some decisions, but I know our coaches are going to do everything just to support those kids,” he said.
Fox said there have been some cases where students have done multiple sports at the same time before. But he said he believes the best route is to participate in a team sport and an individual event.
“We want to do what’s best for these seniors who may have to make a decision for the first time but also be fair to the game, fair to everyone else,” he said.
Editor’s note: Hollister Free Lance Sports Editor Emanuel Lee contributed to this report.