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It's official: High school sports won't start until December or January
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It's official: High school sports won't start until December or January

The CIF state office on Monday released a new calendar for California high school sports after the athletic landscape was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic this spring.

The dates, which will give area high school athletic programs a target to aim for, call for 10 state CIF sections to split their school-year athletic calendar into two seasons beginning in January: fall and spring. The typical calendar has three seasons: fall, winter and spring. 

The high school football season has been moved from August to January, with teams allowed to start practicing in December. The CIF Central Section, which most Santa Maria Valley and San Luis Obispo County schools belong to, will begin its football season on Thursday, Jan. 7.

The first day of the football season for the CIF Southern Section, which Valley Christian Academy, Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools belong to, is the following day, Friday, Jan. 8.

"I think it's the best plan for our current situation," Santa Maria High School athletic director Brian Wallace said.

Wallace also brings up an important point: Will multi-sport athletes be allowed to play multiple sports at the same time?

"My hope is all coaches and schools allow athletes to play multiple sports at the same time so kids get the best possible experience," Wallace said.

“We are very thankful for the CIF in providing a plan to move forward during these unprecedented times," St. Joseph athletic director Tom Mott said Monday. "Positivity and flexibility will be essential as sports return to our campus when safe to do so.

"Our job as a community over the next few weeks and months is to listen to the experts, heed their advice and remember that we are all in this together. We can’t wait until our student-athletes can get back to playing the games they love."

Mott also had another message: "Mask up!"

Nipomo's athletic director Russ Edwards knows it'll be a challenge stuffing all the sports into two seasons.

"I am happy that our student-athletes have a hope to be able to compete this year and that they did not eliminate any sports," he said. "There are definitely negatives to clumping so many sports together, but I am going to focus my energy and encourage my coaches as well to give 100% on making every available moment a positive moment for our student-athletes.

"Teams might not be as large as usual due to student-athletes choosing one sport over another, but that is OK." 

A plan in place

CIF Central Section commissioner Ryan Tos said in a statement released Monday that the two-season decision was made after "it became clear that trying to condense three seasons into six months did not provide as many opportunities as the two-season model."

"From today forward, I hope we focus on the opportunities that this plan provides for our student-athletes," Tos said in Monday's statement. "The upcoming school year will test the resolve, adaptability and determination of all involved."

The two-season model will allow for sectional playoffs and regional and state championships in all sports.

"The state office has made the decision to streamline all regional and state championships into a one-week time period," Tos said.

When do seasons start for Central Section?

For the CIF Central Section, football, cross country, water polo and volleyball will be played at the same time, during the fall sports season.

Practices for those sports can start Dec. 14. Cross country, water polo and volleyball can start play Dec. 28. The last league contest for cross country is March 11 and Feb. 25 for water polo and volleyball.

Football teams can start their seasons on Jan. 7 and the last league contest is March 19. The sit-out period ends for football on Feb. 11.

The spring sports season includes all other sports: badminton, soccer, tennis, swim and dive, wrestling, basketball, baseball, softball, golf, track and field, lacrosse and competitive traditional cheer.

Badminton, soccer, swim and dive, wrestling and basketball and tennis can start practice Feb. 22 and their seasons on March 8.

Baseball, softball, golf, track and field, lacrosse and cheer can start practicing on March 15. The seasons for baseball, softball, golf and track and field can start March 27 and the seasons for lacrosse and competitive sport cheer can start March 29.

The last league contests for baseball, softball and golf can be no later than June 3. The last league contest for track and field is June 4 and for lacrosse is June 5.

There are conditioning periods that consist of non-sport specific conditioning and weight programs.

Southern Section calendar

In the Southern Section, 11-man football has a 64-day season. Practice starts on Dec. 14, like the Central Section. The week 10 contest date is March 12. The playoffs run from March 19 to April 2. The CIF-SS finals are Friday and Saturday, April 9-10. The state bowl games are set for April 16-17. The 8-man regular season ends on Friday, March 5 with the playoffs ending on March 26 and the finals on April 2-3.

The fall sports season in the Southern Section consists of cross country, field hockey, 11-man and 8-man football, gymnastics, competitive traditional cheer, boys and girls volleyball and boys and girls water polo.

The spring sports season consists of badminton, baseball, basketball, competitive sport cheer, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swim and dive, tennis, track and field and wrestling.

Volleyball can start the season on Dec. 12 for boys and Dec. 19 for girls. Boys water polo can start Dec. 21 and girls on Dec. 28.

The season start dates for spring sports in the CIF-SS are: girls tennis Feb. 22, boys and girls soccer Feb. 27, boys tennis March 1, wrestling March 5, basketball March 12, swim and dive March 13, baseball and softball March 19, track and field and golf March 20 and sport cheer March 27.

What's next?

These dates are tentative and can be altered depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. Some schools started summer conditioning programs last month in hopes of a normal high school sports season.

Those programs were shut down and most area schools will start the school year remotely next month.

"We are continuously monitoring the directives and guidelines released from the Governor's Office, the California Department of Education, the California Department of Public Health and local county health departments and agencies as these directives and guidelines are followed by our member schools/school districts with student health and safety at the forefront," the state office said in a statement released Monday. "As these guidelines change, CIF Sections may allow for athletic activity to potentially resume under the summer period rules of the local Section."

The state office also suspended a bylaw that banned athletes from competing with club or travel teams during their high school seasons.

"Students will be allowed to participate on an outside team at the same time they participate on their high school team," the state office said. "As per CIF Article 23, local schools, school districts, leagues, and Sections may develop a more restrictive rule than the CIF State Office with respect to the aforementioned bylaws."

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