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High school sports delayed until December

High school sports are on the 2020 calendar. Just don’t expect much before December.

The California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school sports, announced a COVID-19-conscious athletics schedule for the 2020-21 school year on Monday. The calendar consolidates the traditional three-season format (fall, winter and spring) into two, with sports that usually begin in the fall getting started in December.

“All things considered I think it was the right call to move athletics,” said Nevada Union Athletic Director Dan Crossen. “The safety of our student-athletes, our staff members and our families — in and around the athletic program, and in our community — is what matters most.”

Using the CIF’s modified schedule as a guide, most other sections in the state released similar schedules.

The Sac-Joaquin Section, of which local high schools Nevada Union, Bear River, Forest Lake Christian, Colfax and Sierra Academy-Ghidotti are all members, released its modified calendar just hours after the CIF.

In the SJS format, the “fall” season would consist of football, cross-country, volleyball (boys and girls), water polo (boys and girls) and Division 7 soccer (boys and girls). Football practices are officially allowed to begin Dec. 7, with the other sports getting started Dec. 14. Water polo and volleyball would run until Feb. 26, and cross-country, soccer (D-7) and football would all end in March. Playoffs would follow for teams that qualify.

The spring season will be a busy one. Landing in the “spring” or second season is soccer (division 1-6 boys/girls), badminton, tennis (boys/girls/coed), wrestling (boys/girls), basketball (boys/girls), competitive cheer, swimming (boys/girls) baseball, softball, golf (boys/girls), lacrosse, and track and field. Spring athletics will officially start practice in late February/early March and end in late May/late June, depending on the sport.

“I know it was a difficult decision to make,” said Bear River Athletic Director Scott Savoie. “You’re never going to make everybody happy, and there are really no good alternatives. It’s just unfortunate because I think the winter/spring athletes really took the brunt of it.”

Savoie added that the way the schedule is set up, the traditional multi-sport athlete will be facing some not-so-traditional decisions.

“My biggest concern from this is the multi-sport athlete,” Savoie said. “(The modified schedule) is going to make it very difficult for some of our kids to play the sports they really like to play. Us coaches and athletic directors are going to have to be as flexible as we can to try and make that happen. It’s going to be tough. They’ll have to make a decision between the two or balance the two, but it will be difficult. … A basketball/baseball player is going to have a hard time. Same for a soccer and track kid.”

ACCESS

Savoie and Crossen both noted that making sure student-athletes have access to all the sports they want to compete in is a priority.

“It is extremely important for our students to be able to compete in all the sports they want to and have access to all their passions,” said Crossen. “This year that’s under threat because of the way the calendar looks, but we will be putting together a plan as a school, as a district, to understand what we need to do and what we will be able to do for the multi-sport athletes.”

Per the SJS, dead periods have been waived, meaning teams that would normally be training for the upcoming fall season can continue to do so up until the official start in December, as long as they are cleared by county health officials.

Several Nevada County high school squads had started up socially distanced team training activities in late June, but only got a week and a half of work in before those sessions were halted by county health officials.

“The positive part is all fall high school sports are not off the table,” Nevada Union football head coach Brad Sparks said. “One thing I’ve learned since March 13, which was our last day (of on-campus school), is that things can still change. So, while I’m happy for a Plan B right now, and me and the coaches will start preparing for it, I also am aware something could come up and change things.”

Sparks said he’s most concerned about the mental health of his players, who are frustrated at not being able to practice.

“The most important part to me is the mental health of our guys,” he said. “We got shutdown after one week and we got a lot of guys who are really disappointed. They read the news, they use Twitter and Facebook and see all the other teams still going, so they’re disappointed and angry.”

Whether or not student-athletes can participate in high school sports activities is up to each county.

Of the 10 Sections that make up the CIF, only the Northern Section has gone against the CIF’s recommendation and is still planning to play out the “fall” season in the fall.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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