Door is open for high school sports return: What’s next?

Gov. Gavin Newson paved the way for high school athletics and other youth sports programs to make their long-awaited return. Last Friday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced modifications to its guidelines stating that outdoor, high-contact sports such as football can be played in the purple (widespread) or red (substantial) tiers in counties with a case rate of less or equal 14 per 100,000.

As part of these guidelines, regular testing would be required weekly for athletes 13 years or older. This would include coaching and support staff as well. This testing initiative and its associated costs “are being covered by the state” Newsom said.

According to a release by the CDPH, Los Angeles County currently has a case rate of 12.3 per 100,000. Since the statewide stay-at-home order was lifted on January 25, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) the governing body for high school athletics in the state has allowed select outdoor sports such as cross country to take place under the current tier system.

CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod addressed members of the media on Friday reacting to the newly updated guidance and answered questions about the next steps moving forward to get started such as where cases need to be and updates on an indoor sports return.

The way it’s been explained to us, it is every Tuesday when the state does designate county tier assignments,” Wigod said. “Without competition until Feb. 26, with the exception of (girls) tennis for us, the one that will start Monday, that’s the way it’s going to go forward. It won’t be on a daily basis. It will be updated on Tuesday.”

While this guidance provided a confidence boost for outdoor sports such as football and baseball, indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball are still looking for answers and hope to find the light at the end of the tunnel. 

“We want to see full indoor participation return as well,” said Wigod. “So far, we’ve been working constantly with the California Department of Public Health and the governor’s office trying to get revised guidelines ever since December and actually it dates back to October when we submitted our original thought process and our planning with our sports medicine advisory committee.  

“If schools want to start playing outdoors, they can,” Wigod added. “And then we’re still going to continue those discussions and still work on getting the revision for indoor sports so they potentially can return, so that will all depend on that process playing out to know what our situation would be with championships at the section level.”

Track and field at the 2019 Mt. Sac Relays which was held at El Camino College in Lawndale, California. Photo credit: Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline
Track and field at the 2019 Mt. Sac Relays which was held at El Camino College in Lawndale, California. Photo credit: Dennis J Freeman/News4usonline

Meanwhile, across other school districts in Southern California, things don’t look so bright.  Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest public school system has not seen any athletic activity since December when the district suspended athletic conditioning over surging coronavirus spikes.

But on Monday, the path got a little easier as superintendent Austin Beutner announced that schools can return to conditioning starting the week of March 1.

In anticipation of a more complete reopening of schools in April, we will begin next week to offer child care, one-on-one and small group instruction, services for students with special needs, and a return to athletic conditioning.”

According to San Pedro (HS) officials, they plan to resume athletic conditioning beginning March 4 for all athletic programs.

It’s been a long wait, but buckle up because high school sports are coming back.

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