Published Jan. 25, 2021
By RILEY PALSHAW
With the lifting of the Monterey County stay-at-home order, uncertainties surrounding high school athletics persist, while the California Interscholastic Federation continues to push for the start of the Season 1 sports schedule.
If the stay-at-home order had not been in effect, Season 1 sports would have been granted permission to start practicing Jan. 16 so long as they followed the guidelines enforced by the California Department of Public Health and the county and sport were in alignment.
“If a sport is in a less restrictive tier than their current county would allow, then that sport may practice as long as the athletes maintain six feet of social distancing, wear masks and hold practices outside,” Commissioner David Grissom noted in a Jan. 15 correspondence with state CCS athletic directors.
Under the health department’s guidelines, competitions would have been cleared to start Monday had the stay-at-home order not been put into effect, so long as the sport corresponds with the tier of the county.Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted by Governor Gavin Newsom, the possibility of sports returning may be on the horizon.
“Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, whatever is in the purple tier we can definitely offer,” Carmel High School athletic director and varsity football coach Golden Anderson said earlier this month. “So there is going to be some version of sports.”
With the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s cancellation of the high school sports schedule for the remainder of the school year, schools in Monterey County have been granted the freedom to create their own schedules with teams in their league. But this too comes with some uncertainty, as there is a possibility that schools might not have the same reopening status as others, meaning that there would be little to no competition between schools.
“We’re committed to getting kids on campus safely and returning them to some sort of athletics, whatever is allowed to be offered,” Anderson said Friday. “And if other schools aren’t able to do the things we’re doing when we’re in a tier, we’re looking at creative ways to do our own activities on our campus.”
As stated in Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” Monterey County is in the widespread or purple tier, meaning the county has more than seven cases per 100,000 residents. According to the California Interscholastic Federation, only outdoor, low-contact sports are permitted at the high school level in this tier: cross-country, golf, skiing, snowboarding, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field. A wide array of sports not typically offered at CHS are permitted too, like badminton, corn hole, pickleball and shuffleboard.
As counties in California move down to the substantial (red), moderate (orange) and then minimal (yellow) tiers, permitted sports will move from outdoor, moderate-contact and high-contact sports to indoor, moderate-contact sports. The red tier will allow baseball, field hockey, girls lacrosse and softball, while the orange tier will allow football, gymnastics, boys lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and water polo. Once a county reaches the yellow tier, indoor contact sports like basketball, competitive cheerleading and wrestling will finally be allowed.
Physical conditioning is authorized for all sports regardless of county status, and that form of athletics started at CHS on Nov. 2, but has been on hold since Dec. 11. Principal Jon Lyons announced in a recent email to the school that the plan is to return to cohorting now that the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Schools want to start up sports again, it’s just a matter of doing it in a safe environment with a strong system in place.
“I understand there’s fears and that people are afraid,” Anderson said, “but instead of not offering something I think the smart thing to do is offer everything you can, and if people don’t want to go on that journey, there’s no requirement. But if you don’t offer anything, then you preclude the people that want to do something.”
Some coaches and athletes are trying to make the most out of this situation, since there’s not much else they can do as they wait for things to start up again.
“My goal is to make the most of whatever opportunities we have in the present and keep looking ahead to the future,” says Chris Avedissian, the newly hired CHS boys’ varsity water polo coach.
In some cases, this optimism carries over to students, who are eager to participate in whatever sports programs are offered so long as the school prioritizes safety during these times. However, other athletes are preparing for the worst.
“A lot of people are coming to terms with what is going on and have lost hope regarding returning to school and [sporting] events,” junior volleyball player Sophia Gibbs says. “For me it is disheartening, but I, as well as others, have seen this coming for a while.”
For many athletes, upperclassmen especially, this fall season may have opened college opportunities, so it is critical to them that they get that season back.
“Being away from sports not only takes away from memories we should be making with our peers,” senior football player Antonio Posadas says, “but also those of us that were hoping for a standout senior year to help catch the eye of college scouts are depleted of that opportunity.”
Although the CIF has updated their regulations, all sports in Monterey County have been on hold. Now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, it remains to be seen whether high school sport will return to Monterey County sooner rather than later.
As Anderson said, “Every time the rules change, we just adapt because we want [athletes] to have the most normal experience possible in this time.”