When the California Interscholastic Federation announced a revised high school sports schedule in July, many assumed pandemic conditions would ease enough for games to resume by the first of the new year. With COVID-19 cases rising nationwide, that’s no longer the case.
Even before Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that sectors of California would shut down due to rising cases, high school sports were a longshot. In a statement released on Dec. 1, the California Interscholastic Federation announced it would postpone all practice and competition until it received new guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. Those are not expected to be released until after the first of the year.
The decision came with less than two weeks before Central Coast Section’s “Season 1” teams could begin practice. In July, the CCS released a revised schedule that split high school sports into two seasons, with football, volleyball, water polo, field hockey and cross-country taking place in Season 1. Practice start dates were scheduled for Dec. 14, and many games would start on Dec. 28.
“The California Interscholastic Federation does not expect the CDPH will issue any guidance allowing for schools to return to full practice and competition until after Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest,” the CIF said in the statement. “Thus, all full practice and competition start dates are officially on hold until updated guidance is issued.”
The CIF also announced it would remove all regional and state championships from the Season 1 calendar. With no major championships, more schools can have a longer season. This move was a surprise to Half Moon Bay High School varsity football coach Keith Holden, who noted those games are key money-makers for the CIF.
California is one of 16 states not playing high school football at all in 2020. Some states have completed an entire season while others remain in playoffs. The Half Moon Bay High School varsity football team ceased its offseason conditioning in the weight room when San Mateo County went into the purple tier in late November. It’s an unusual position for everyone involved. Holden, who has been coaching since 1996, said while he wants the team to be ready if there is eventually a season, he was not surprised the CIF made this decision given the rise in cases.
“I always tell (the team), ‘If you guys want a season, you need to social distance,’” Holden said. “Not following the rules isn’t going to help us get a season.”
Cougar Athletic Director Brendan Roth noted the cancellation of regional and state championships would provide more time and flexibility for CCS and Peninsula Athletic League games should they eventually start.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the most prudent choice,” Roth said. “There was no way we could realistically have these sports going under these current conditions.”
Girls volleyball head coach Ryan Havice said one possible silver lining is, with the change, the beginning of a sports season won’t coincide with the end of high school’s first semester, meaning students will have more time to focus on final exams.
“I'm still hoping we can salvage this with any version of a season that we can conduct safely,” Havice said in an email. “Shortening the season, overlapping seasons one and two, or combining both of them into a single season. Whatever it takes to eventually get our kids engaged again.”