SALINAS VALLEY — High school fall sports in the upcoming 2020-21 school year will be delayed, with the beginning of practice pushed back to Dec. 14, and games beginning no earlier than Dec. 28 or Jan. 8. Those sports are cross country, football, water polo and volleyball.
California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Coast Section made the announcement July 21 in order to adjust sports schedules to reduce risk of exposure to Covid-19.
Beyond moving fall sports back to the middle of winter, the delay also pushes winter and spring sports together to become a mega season of soccer, tennis, swimming, wrestling, baseball, basketball, track and field, softball, golf and cheer. All of those sports will begin practice by either Feb. 22 or March 15, and then start competitions no earlier than March 8 or March 29, all depending on the sport.
While the timeline is a setback compared to normal, non-pandemic seasons, it is an official timeline confirmed by authorities. Before the announcement, school districts had been in limbo as far as the timing of their sports programs.
“I’m excited that we have a tentative start date,” said Art Berlanga, football coach at Gonzales High School.
Berlanga added that he isn’t concerned with the delay, but he appreciated the consistency.
“At this point with so much confusion and inconsistencies, I just want our kids to experience something within high school sports, especially with the racial and political climate today,” he said. “Sports are incredibly powerful not just for Gonzales, but for all communities; it restores, heals, connects and transcends.”
The ripple effect into creating a delayed two-season sports year rather than one with three seasons and summer practices means sports well into spring will be impacted, including baseball.
“As baseball is concerned, delaying the start just means we will start later than usual,” said Lorenzo Espino, baseball coach at King City High School. “Normally we start fall ball in October, but with this new start date, basically we will have two seasons, meaning we will start baseball in March.”
Espino said KCHS football coach Mac Villanueva is gathering everything needed for the gridiron program’s later start.
“It’s definitely going to be an interesting year,” Espino said. “The kids are excited and ready to get back on the field for football.”
With youth set to play in the span of five months, and no foreseeable end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gonzales High School sports medicine program’s Twitter page had concerned posts from July 26 regarding the recent announcement the program would be shut down this year. The posts urged community members to question who will oversee safety and health care of their local sports programs.
“Before we can help and ensure that our athletes are prepared to compete and our coaches prepared to coach, we have to be proactive and diligent with our approach to support and provide the necessary resources for our kids to train, practice and compete safely,” Berlanga said. “Our district, school, coaches and sports medicine need to be all on the same page before we can move forward to ensure our kids and coaches are safe and supported.”
Espino added, “As coaches, all we can do to help our student athletes is to be supportive and be there for them.”