Many prep athletes at schools in Fontana and across the state had been hoping to begin their delayed fall seasons this month, but now their hopes have been dashed until after the start of the New Year.
Due to the continued surge in COVID-19 infections, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has postponed the issuance of its updated youth sports guidance.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) issued a statement saying it does not expect the CDPH will issue any guidance allowing for schools to return to full practice and competition until after Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest. As a result, all full practice and competition start dates are officially on hold until updated guidance is issued, the CIF said in a news release on Dec. 1.
"Therefore, to provide the 10 CIF Sections, our 1,605 member schools, and more than 800,000 student-athletes the best opportunity to compete in Season 1 Sports, once allowed by the CDPH and local county offices of public health, the CIF State Office is removing all Regional and State Championship events from the Season 1 Sports calendar," the CIF said.
"By canceling Regional and State Championship events, more student-athletes will have the opportunity to participate in a longer season, rather than a truncated season with Regional and State post-season play for a limited number of schools."
Additionally, boys' volleyball competition will be moved to Season 2 to avoid the loss of a second full season, and an updated Season 2 calendar to include boys' volleyball will be posted in January.
"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," the CIF said.
Previously, when the coronavirus infection rate had been lower, the CIF had been hoping that sports activity could officially get under way in December for sports such as girls' volleyball, boys' and girls' water polo, and cross country, with football starting in January.
In a separate statement, CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said:
"In July, we made the decision to delay the start of the CIF sports calendar state-wide so that we would be able to have full regular seasons and full section championships for all sports during the 2020-2021 school year. We believed that if we allowed the maximum amount of time possible to gain control of the situation we could deliver to our student-athletes what we all want for them and give them what they deserve. Since July, there clearly has not been any progress made toward gaining control of the pandemic, in fact, it has gotten worse."
The CIF's calendar for fall sports and spring sports for the 2020-2021 school year remains in place, Wigod said. If there are cancellations and/or postponements of some athletic contests, Wigod said he hopes that league competition and CIF post-season play can still take place.
"If regular seasons are shortened, it would be at the front end of the season, keeping the back end of the season unchanged. It is our intention for post-season play to be a destination for schools who are able to play this fall, even more so if regular seasons are reduced at the beginning. Time will tell what that will look like, but as I have said throughout the period of time in preparation of the 2020-2021 sports calendars, all options will be on the table for post-season play as well."
On Jan. 19, Wigod said the CIF will have a better sense of the overall situation, and he will provide an update on the status of CIF championship events for fall sports.
"As has always been the case, individual schools/school districts/private schools have the sole responsibility of determining what athletic activities you will allow on your campuses, following the guidelines from state and local health authorities," Wigod said. "These guidelines are not CIF Bylaws contained in our Blue Book, but are recommendations made by health professionals who have the obligation to enforce the guidelines they have recommended. We must now try and meet the challenges ahead."
Brandon Colbrunn, the athletic director at Fontana High School, said that the school's fall sports athletes are limited to doing basic conditioning activities in the absence of regular practice sessions. It isn't "much more than a modified PE conditioning class," he said.
"We are still hopeful that things will break back enough to provide some sense of a season. However, the virus doesn’t seem to care much for what we hope for. For the time being it is just good for the mental health of our kids and coaches to be doing something active," Colbrunn said.