Volleyball

The Steeler mascot and fans cheer for the Fontana High School volleyball team during a game last fall.  The start of this year's volleyball season will be delayed until December because of the coronavirus crisis.  (Contributed photo by Connie Caruthers) 

For six decades, students have been participating in sports in the Fontana Unified School District, but this will be the first fall in which no athletes will be on the playing fields.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the CIF Southern Section is delaying the start of the traditional autumn sports season until the winter months of December and January.

Athletic directors at high schools in Fontana know that this unprecedented situation will result in some difficult adjustments, but they are glad that participants in all sports will eventually have their opportunity to compete -- if health conditions permit.

"I commend the CIF for putting together this schedule," said Kristen Braun, the athletic director at Jurupa Hills High School. "We will need to be creative, but I think we can make it work."

The regular season for football is slated to begin on Jan. 8, and Braun said the Spartans are aiming to starting their complete 10-game schedule with a game against local rival Fontana A.B. Miller.

Because leagues are undergoing major format changes for 2020-2021 which had been voted on previously, Jurupa Hills will be playing only three league football games. If it turns out that COVID-19 concerns are forcing the cancellation of games in January, the season could still theoretically get under way with league action in February, followed by possible CIF playoff competition in March, Braun said.

Athletes who were hoping to be involved in two or three sports could still get their chance even though seasons for certain sports will be overlapping due to calendar restraints. Braun noted that CIF rules allow students to compete in more than one sport at the same time; in fact, she recalled that she played softball and also was on the track and field team during the spring while attending Fontana High School in the 1980s.

Steve Hickey, the A.D. at Kaiser High School, said that CIF officials are doing "the best they can" to accommodate the athletes and coaches.

"It's tough for everybody right now," he said. "There's nothing we can really do except wait."

Hickey said he has talked with his coaches and they are on board with all of the plans.

"They are looking forward to working with the kids when the right time arrives," he said.

Volleyball, which normally is played in the fall, will require a big change for the girls' teams because their season will now start on Dec. 19 -- right when the schools' winter break is getting under way.

Hickey said some of the biggest challenges for the athletic directors could be setting up schedules for game officials and arranging for transportation for teams.

Rob Peterson, the A.D. at Summit High School, is looking on the bright side.

"We are grateful that the CIF is finding a way to support the health and well-being of our student athletes at the same time as they are supporting the possible continuation of sports programs. We are also thankful that they found a way to incorporate ALL of our sports so none of our student athletes will miss out when sports resume," Peterson said in an email.

"Having the football season start in January and the basketball and soccer seasons start in March is going to make things look quite different, but our coaches are excited for the challenge and are already working together for the benefit of our students, especially the multi-sport student athletes."

Sharing that same philosophy is Fohi A.D. Brandon Colbrunn.

"While this is going to be a new experience for all of us, we are excited that there is hope of our kids getting in some kind of competition this year," Colbrunn said in an email. "The logistics are going to be daunting, and we can’t really predict how the public health situation will look in three, six, or nine months. However, at least we have a target for us all to take aim.

"Hopefully, our wider society can come together to help get the current crisis under control. As we have all seen since March, the world can change in the blink of an eye. It is our sincere hope that we continue to change for the better so that we can give our kids, their families, and our communities something to get excited and positive about. In my opinion, that is the best part of education-based athletics. Our coaches are already engaging the mental gears to make the best out of this opportunity. Fingers-crossed, the masks help, people stay safe and healthy, and we’ll all be ready to go for the first volleyball opportunities on Dec. 19."

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