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Local schools react to CIF decision to postpone start of sports season

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ORCUTT, Calif. -- The start of the upcoming high school sports season has been pushed back by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

On Tuesday, CIF State Office announced it is pausing the official start of full practices and competitions until the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issues updated guidance on youth sports activities.

"Our initial reaction was just thankful for something," said St. Joseph Athletic Director Tom Mott. "We've all been kind of in limbo knowing wanting to know what was going to happen. CIF gave us the dates months ago, but with the last couple of weeks of how COVID has spiked, we kind of had a pretty good idea that things were going to get moved around."

In a statement, CIF said guidance has been postponed due to the continued surge of COVID-19 infections statewide.

"The CIF is confident this decision is a necessary and reasonable action for our member schools, student-athletes, and school communities in light of the current statewide crisis. This revision to the CIF State 2020-21 Season 1 Sports calendar offers our Sections and Leagues the flexibility and needed time to plan for the return to practice and competition once updated guidance is provided by the CDPH."

It does not expect that guidance to be released until Jan. 1, 2021 at the earliest.

"Hopefully, it will all work out and I think that's what CIF is trying to do," said Righetti Athletic Director Kevin Barbarick. "They're just trying to give us more time and give us an opportunity to get some sports in and give the kids some hope that they can have a sports season this year."

In addition, CIF has removed all Regional and State Championship events from the Season 1 sports calendar.

Season 1 sports includes football, football, boys and girls water polo, boys and girls cross country and girls volleyball.

While State and Regional championships have been cancelled, as of now, Sectional playoffs and championships remain on the calendar.

In addition, the CIF announcement does not mean sports are shut down entirely.

Schools will still be allowed to continue conditioning drills.

At Righetti, and other Santa Maria Valley schools, non-contact conditioning practices have been ongoing since September.

"Nothing has changed," said Righetti football coach Tony Payne. "We're going to continue to condition and do everything we can to get better at football. We have an opportunity to lift weights on campus, which is wonderful and the boys are getting stronger every day."

Since beginning conditioning drills in September, Barbarick points out there have been no known health issues with student-athletes or coaches.

"We're very careful with their masks and social distancing," said Barbarick. "Our coaches have done a fantastic job of keeping our kids safe and we haven't have had any issues since we've been back, and so, really it's been kind of a safe place for the kids to get here and be healthy and work out and get a little bit of socialization in a safe environment."

It is currently unknown when, or if, any high school sports season will begin.

"That's the text and the call I get every single day, 20 times a day, do you think we're going to play," said Mott. "I always say yes because I do believe somehow we're going to have seasons."

"We are optimistic," said Barbarick. "Absolutely. That's what we're hoping for. That's the message we are giving the kids."

School officials say they are remaining flexible and will be as creative as possible to ensure student-athletes will be able to to compete if and when the state grants permission.

"Our goals as athletic directors is to give students on the Central Coast something to play for, and whether it's a full season or a truncated season, or something in between," said Mott. "I know every athletic director on the Central Coast is going to do their best to give their students something."

"We've started talking with coaches in our respected counties," said Barbarick in regards to scheduling. "We've been in communication and hopefully, we'll be prepared for whatever comes our way, and be ready to give our kids an opportunity no matter what it takes."

Leaders emphasize the important role that athletics play to many students, and stress the impact they have on their lives.

"Our students physical and mental health is crucial to their development," said Payne. "Just being out here together, we've seen improvement in their mindset and their mental health and definitely in their physical conditioning. It's good for the boys."

"At our school, 80% of the kids play sports," said Mott. "At all of the schools here on the Central Coast, sports plays a huge part of the kids lives. Our motto is to educate in mind, heart, body, and soul, and so, the mind is obviously is very, very important, but the body, if you aren't getting opportunity to play sports, which you've done you're whole life, something is going to missing."

In another move announced Tuesday, CIF is moving boys volleyball, which was scheduled for Season 1, to Season 2.

Season 2 sports are still scheduled to begin spring 2021.

Those sports include basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, swimming & diving, track and field, golf, tennis, wrestling and competitive cheer.

Article Topic Follows: High School Sports

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Dave Alley

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