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CIF delays high school sports hoping for improved conditions

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

With the coronavirus showing no signs of abating and the beginning of fall sports for thousands of high School athletes just a few weeks away, the California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday the season will be delayed until December.

The CIF’s decision came as no surprise after last Friday’s announcement from the Los Angels County Department of Public Health. School districts cannot resume in-person classes for the upcoming fall semester.

The CIF plan condenses the traditional three-season schedule into two, which they are referring to as fall and spring. However, the fall competitions will all take place during the winter months.

Girls water polo and boys volleyball have been moved to the fall/winter schedule, while girls tennis and girls golf will now be played in spring. The bulk of traditional winter sports, including basketball and soccer, will be woven into the spring season.

For the record, the season that begins in December will include football, all volleyball, all water polo, cross country and traditional competitive cheer. Spring will include baseball, all basketball, competitive sport cheer, all golf, all tennis, softball, swimming, track and field, all soccer and wrestling.

“I think it is the best possible solution for a difficult situation,” Claremont High School principal Brett O’Connor said, emphasizing he did not want to see any student athletes miss out on the opportunity to compete. He believes the biggest challenge for the teams—and the administration—will be allocating facilities.

Claremont’s head football coach Shane Hile echoed Mr. O’Connor’s comment the CIF made the right choice. “They did the best they could given the circumstances,” he said.

The football team will have pretty much the same schedule, with ten regular season games as well as the CIF playoffs, except it will start five months later. The team will actually have more time to practice if they can begin by the first week of September, which is Coach Hile’s goal.

In order to provide a safe platform for practice to continue, Coach Hile divides the team into groups of ten boys who work on conditioning and specific skills, while observing social distancing. The priority is to get them fit, including workouts in the weight room, and build the strength they will need to avoid injury.

There will be scheduling headaches for many of the teams as they try to utilize the same facilities concurrently. The two soccer teams will be sharing the main athletic field with track and field, so all three teams will have to coordinate schedules to include both practice and competitions. There will be additional conflicts for multi-sport athletes, which most likely will force those students to choose one team over another.

Kathy Settles coaches both the boys and the girls varsity tennis teams, but only has four courts for practice, which is crowded with just a single team.

When the COURIER caught up with her on Monday, she had not figured out a plan to make it all work. Fortunately, both teams are pretty evenly matched so she thought coed practices might work. Competitions are another matter.

Five of the six Palomares League tennis teams have the same coach for both the boys and the girls, so they’re in the same situation as Coach Settles. She suggested they could modify the matches to include fewer sets or simply have fewer matches. Whatever solutions they adopt will require a fair amount of flexibility.

“I am happy they have not cancelled the entire season and we will just have to get creative to make it work,” she said. “I have five seniors on the girls team and I really want them to have a senior season.”

Last year her girls varsity team made it all the way to the CIF finals, earning the runner up trophy. As a result, the girls are the odds-on favorite in both league and the playoffs.

Of course, the entire revised sports season hinges on the county reaching several benchmarks indicating the local outbreak has been controlled. Los Angeles County is currently on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list because it has more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, with the positivity rate over eight percent. In order for schools to re-open, the county will have to remain off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

Individual school districts can apply for a waiver to reopen if they meet certain criteria, however, that would most likely not work for sports because each school district within the league would also have to obtain a waiver. Further complicating a piecemeal approach is several schools in the Palomares League are in San Bernardino County.


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