High school sports across California have stayed sidelined since the pandemic shut down schools and extracurricular activities 11 months ago. This month, after several revised safety guidelines and schedule changes, some student-athletes and coaches will be allowed back on their respective playing fields.
After the state lifted its stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, sports labeled by the California Interscholastic Federation as low-risk, contact sports can now begin competing under county and state rules. This includes cross-country, swimming, tennis and golf. With safety protocols in place, Half Moon Bay High School student-athletes competing in Season 1 have resumed practicing and conditioning. Those in Season 2 sports will start offseason conditioning on Feb. 8. To participate in each session, students are required to pass a temperature check, answer a health questionnaire and wear a mask at all times.
The Peninsula Athletic League released several team schedules this week for sports in areas now allowing competition because they fall into the purple tier of the state’s reopening framework. The Cougars, for the first time since last March, will have a team suit up in uniform when the girls tennis team plays at Menlo-Atherton next week. The time is still to be determined. The PAL also released its volleyball schedule, but teams will have to wait until the county reaches the lower-risk red tier to begin competing. The Cougar cross-country team is also scheduled to face Menlo-Atherton next week at an unspecified time. According to HMBHS Athletic Director Brendan Roth, schools have the option to participate in a remote cross-country race and upload times via a live shared spreadsheet. Attendance at events is limited to just two parents per student-athlete.
In December, the CIF, in alignment with the California Department of Public Health, announced guidelines that youth sports would be dependent upon each county’s positive case rate, which corresponds to the county's colored tier. When the Central Coast Section Executive Committee met in mid-January, it canceled playoffs for Season 1 sports. The CCS has not decided on Season 2 playoffs because of the uncertainty surrounding future tier assignments. The CIF has already canceled its playoffs. Like the North Coast and San Joaquin sections, the CCS’s leagues can alter schedules on their own. Now, each league can adjust each sports calendar to extend until the state’s final allocated day, which is April 3 for all Season 1 sports except football, which is April 17.
“If you play a Season 2 sport in Season 1, then you’re not eligible for the CCS playoffs or a state meet,” said CCS Commissioner David Grissom. “We’ve had the intention of trying to keep our spring sports athletes, who lost their season last year, having as normal an experience as possible, and to have a playoff experience that they didn’t get to have last year.”
The Cougars have switched out their water polo season, originally slated as a Season 1 sport, with swimming, which is allowed in the purple tier. The school also brought in girls golf, Roth said.
“We figured we’d capitalize on purple sports to the best of our abilities,” Roth said. “It gives our sports a better opportunity to actually compete and we felt moving some of these purple tier sports would get kids playing and engaged right away.”
Regional playoffs likely won’t happen if the California Department of Public Health keeps its current guidelines, which don't allow teams to travel across more than one adjacent county. For example, teams located in San Mateo County can compete in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, but not Monterey or San Benito counties. These first competitions come as members of the Golden State High School Football Coaches Community, a 700-member advocacy group spearheaded by two Bay Area coaches, met with California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and Executive Secretary Jim DeBoo this week. They say their data shows that high school sports, particularly football, are safe to play and that the tier system should be removed.
“We’re doing everything we can within reason to keep these kids as safe as they possibly can be,” Roth said.