There will be high school sports in 2021, but which sports will actually have a season will depend on reduction of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, and then it will be up to individual leagues and schools to figure out what kind of competition schedule they could have.
On Wednesday morning Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Michael Garrison spoke with sports reporters over Zoom, and explained the results of the SJS Board of Managers’ decision on Tuesday regarding the structure of the remaining season.
In short, the season for all sports begins on Monday, Feb. 1 and ends on June 12, with the exception of cross-country, which started on Jan. 25, and football, which ends on April 17. The section also will not host playoffs or championship meets or tournaments this year.
But the reality for most high school teams is that they won’t be allowed to play until their respective counties can report much lower COVID-19 statistics than they’re seeing today.
With San Joaquin County in the purple “widespread” tier of Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” the only sports that are allowed to start up under the purple tier are non-contact individual outdoor sports, including cross country, golf, tennis, swimming and track and field.
Sports that will be allowed under the red “substantial” tier include baseball and softball. In order to move to the red tier, the county must report fewer than seven new COVID-19 cases per-day for every 100,000 residents. San Joaquin County briefly moved into the red tier in mid-October before the latest surge in COVID-19 infections, and has been in the purple tier ever since.
As of Jan. 9 the county was reporting 76.7 cases per-100,000 residents, more than 10 times the number that would allow the county to move back to the red tier. This week that number had been reduced to 63.7 new cases per-100,000.
The county would have to report fewer than four cases per-100,000 move to the orange “moderate” tier, which would allow football, volleyball, soccer and water polo. Only after the county reports just one infection per-100,000 could indoor sports like basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer start up again.
Garrison said that once counties achieve those numbers it will be up to the section’s 26 individual leagues and 189 member schools to work out their schedules. He added that the section expects to post information on those schedules on www.cifsjs.org once leagues have made their decisions.
“One of the biggest things we’re hearing from our membership is, while they do care about playoffs, and that’s an important piece, but right now in the current situation that we’re in, really all they care about is getting kids out on the courts, on the field, in the pools, on the decks, whatever, and having an opportunity to participate,” Garrison said.
Tracy High Athletic Director Matt Shrout said on Wednesday that the Tri-City Athletic League’s governing board planned to meet on Thursday to determine what the season would look like for the sports that can start up again under the purple tier.
Mountain House High Athletic Director Guadalupe Galindo sent out a statement on Wednesday, informing athletes in cross country, golf, tennis, swimming, track and field and sideline cheer that their seasons are set to begin practice on Monday, and athletes should be prepared to follow safety protocols, including staying in their small-group cohorts in practice, use of personal protective equipment and physical distancing.
Garrison that the section understands that any sports season that takes place in 2021 will be nothing like athletes have had in the past. For example, with football, once April 17 comes around many counties may not be able to achieve those numbers that would allow the sport to resume.
“We’ve heard some of our schools say, ‘Hey, even if it’s just one game and it’s our rival that we get to play, it’s worth it for us,’” he said.
He noted that all along the section has advocated for all sports to resume under the red tier, which would be more attainable within the next few months. At this point he said that the best chance for anything close to a normal season is with traditional spring sports like baseball, softball, track and field and swimming, especially because those athletes have already missed out on their 2020 season because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The thing that just breaks my heart for a kid is spring athletes, let’s say a senior quite potentially could go to college, leave high school, and say ‘I was never able to compete on a varsity (team), put on a varsity softball uniform, and play varsity softball for my high school, because when I was a junior it got cancelled and we never got to it in my senior year because of the pandemic,’” he said. “We continue to advocate to our leagues, protect the spring sports.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4227.