Video: When will California high school and youth sports return?

Mitch Stephens | Wednesday, November 11, 2020 10:00am

Health and Human Services agency provides an update as state grapples with COVID-19 guidelines, tiers.

Reporters on a teleconference Tuesday tried their best to get answers about possible new California guidelines and start dates as they apply to the return of high school and youth sports.

California Health and Human Service Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly did his best to answer those queries, but ultimately his message was "soon."

See his complete answers to key questions on the video above.

The California Interscholastic Federation has been working with Ghaly and his office since COVID-19 hit in March. Along with CIF Section officials throughout the state, they offered a 2020-21 plan that split all its sports into two seasons, starting in early January.

Practice for those sports, which include football, cross country, girls volleyball, water polo, competitive cheer, field hockey and gymnastics, can begin as early as the first week of December and conclude in March. All the other sports will begin in March and April and conclude in June.

CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti said Tuesday those plans and dates haven't changed. But ultimately, the Department of Health makes the final call.

As COVID numbers continue to spike throughout the country, and the state, and professional and college sports schedules continue to alter, so too could CIF's plan.

California is one of 15 states which moved fall sports to 2021. Complicating matters is the state's changing COVID-19 color-tiered system that could affect what type of competition is permitted.

As of Tuesday, 13 of the 58 state counties graded purple (widespread), 23 were red (substantial), 16 orange (moderate) and six yellow (minimal). Purple and red counties are by far the most populated counties and if the health department rules it's not safe for those to play a high contact sport, that could largely wipe out a sport like football season for most schools.

With football practices scheduled in about a month and a three-week span to change a color category, the public is anxious to hear what and when new guidelines are coming. 

Ghaly appealed to reporters that he too is a parent of four and want his kids being active, playing sports. But the issues and complexities offer no easy answers.

Of guidelines, Ghaly said, "We are close. These are not easy (guidelines) to put together. There's not just the competition issue, but there's the conditioning issue. There's understanding how we continue to drive through our equity lenses to make sure that there's important, broad access to all of these opportunities. … I hope that we find a way to hold on a little longer."

Of the new tiers being released in the state: "When we're seeing high rates of transmission or counties that have been in the purple and even the red tiers longest, that they may not have as many of the higher risk sports return right away. But all of this will be released soon. (We're) working through some of those final details."

Of parents and athletes going out of state to play games to prepare for the high school season or even college: "Moving into states and other areas with higher transmission is risky. We want to find ways to discourage people from travelling long distances to play other teams, to play local teams, because it's allowed there.

"We know that these are difficult times. We are working to make sure that we have solutions."