The California Department of Public Health released youth sports guidelines Monday night outlining what sports can be played in the state's various colored tiers as well as saying that competitions cannot begin before Jan. 25.
The guideline chart categorizes sports in California's four colored tiers from purple (most restrictive) to red and orange to yellow (least restrictive).
Football and volleyball fall in the orange tier while baseball and softball land in red tier. Golf, cross county, and swimming and diving sit in the purple tier. Basketball and wrestling are yellow-based sports, according to the new guidelines.
Monday's announcement also specified competitions would be authorized if
"both teams are located in the same county" or "teams are located in
immediately bordering counties and the sport is authorized in both
Additionally, the Public Health guidelines prevent "inter-team competitions" until Jan. 25, 2021 at the earliest. The return-to-competition guidelines will be revisited on Jan. 4 based on the state's COVID-19 numbers. Of California's 58 counties, 55 are deemed purple.
The tiers are based on coronavirus positivity rates per 100,000 people – purple, 8 percent or higher; red, 5 to 8 percent; orange, 2 to 4.9 percent, and yellow, less than 2 percent.
While coaches, players, parents and schools have been looking for guidance from the state since August, the newly-released guidelines should force the CIF to revise its calendar, which had initially set games to start in January. The CIF calendar was divided into three "seasons" with football games set to begin Jan. 7.
On Dec. 1, the CIF delayed the start of competition based on the lack of youth sports guidelines and were set to give an update after the first of the year. The state Public Health release appeared to catch the CIF off guard as commissioners were in meetings Tuesday discussing how to move forward.
CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti told MaxPreps afterward that the meeting lasted about two hours and mostly helped clarify the guidelines with the 10 commissioners, who will now communicate those updates with member schools. Nocetti doesn't see sections adjusting their athletic calendars for at least another three weeks.
"I think the sections will proceed very cautiously," he said. "In the tiers that allow sports, none will start up until January 25 and that will be reassessed by January 4. I don't think you'll see a lot of things happening until then because what if that deed changes on January 4?"
Nocetti said though surprised at the timing of Monday's announcement, he certainly wasn't complaining.
"We were anticipating they wouldn't be coming out until January, but glad they came out before," he said. "That's what we've been asking for. We understand we're not starting now. But at least getting guidelines now allows for people to start planning.
"It would have been really difficult if they came out with guidelines in the middle of January, saying that you can start playing January 25."
Because of the delays, the CIF has already cancelled regional and state championship events to allow potentially more local, league and section play. "It didn't feel right having an event for 50 schools, giving them an additional game, when with that week we could have, for instance, 1,300 volleyball programs play two matches."
Nocetti said the CIF has asked the state health officials "that once competition is allowed, that all of our sports are allowed to resume in either red or purple. We understand why we're not playing today. But once we're allowed to resume, we're going to advocate for as many of our sports to be played in the red and purple tiers."
CIF schools have earned that trust, Nocetti said.
"We've followed the rules," he said. "Not every organization can say that. We still see (other organizations) not following rules and we wonder, 'how can that be happening when it says no sports can be playing at this time?' I think our schools have followed the rules and should be given the chance to at least try.
"If they (CDPH) tell us, 'Hey look, we've seen an issue here so we're telling you to stop," I know our schools would stop that day."
That's all many coaches in the state have been asking for — a chance to make it work. A pair of Northern California football coaches — Justin Alumbaugh, of De La Salle (Concord), and Patrick Walsh, of Serra (San Mateo) — told MaxPreps and the Bay Area News Group on Thursday that new guidelines is what they've been waiting for.
They received them on Monday, but their counties (Concord and San Mateo) getting to the Orange tier could be many days if not multiple months away. Since early June, De La Salle, like many programs throughout the state have been practicing social distance protocols during conditioning then weight training.
"We know how to follow guidance," Alumbaugh said. "And if we are given the opportunity, I'm very, very confident we can do it."
Asked what he'd ask health officials if given the chance, Walsh said last week: "I would ask the governor and state of California to give us a chance. I think up to 40 states have been give that chance. Not everything went well. ... I know nothing's perfect. But I can tell you there's a 0% chance of this being perfect if the kids don't play. ... Play one game. Maybe play seven. But given that chance, I think potentially we could surprise people."
Some other items of note from the state guidelines:
• Participants in youth and adult sports should wear face coverings when participating in the activity, even with heavy exertion.
• Immediate household members may observe practices and games as needed for age-appropriate supervision, but should be limited to ensure physical distance can be maintained.
• Limit indoor sports venue capacity for athletes, coaches and observers – 25 percent in orange; 50 percent in yellow. No guidelines for red or purple tiers.
• Teams must not participate in out-of-state tournaments.
Senior writer Mitch Stephens contributed to this report. Story updated at 6:30 p.m.