The Winners and Losers of Proposed CIF High School Sports Schedule

By John Hull | Guest Columnist | 

(Sacramento) – Just about every school in California will have to begin the 2020-2021 school year online, or as it is being called, “Distance Learning.” It means kids stay home and use computers and other like devices to talk to and receive lessons and homework from their teachers.

Extra-curricular activities, namely, athletics are now forced to remain in neutral, just like they concluded the spring semester last academic year. Locally, we didn’t get to see if Sheldon would win a long-desired CIF State Championship in boys basketball, what a Coach Jeff Carlson-less Elk Grove baseball team would look like on the diamond, and if Monterey Trail and Pleasant Grove could once again field a top-flight track and field squad. COVID-19 Stay-at-home health restrictions abruptly forced athletes and coaches off the competitive stage.

On Monday, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced a modified schedule for sports this coming school year. No one competes, practices or sweats until December 7 when football players can start practicing. A week later Boys and Girls Water Polo, Boys and Girls Volleyball and Cross Country can get started.

The “winter” sports of Boys and Girls Basketball, Boys and Girls Soccer and wrestling gets squeezed into the traditional “spring” season along with every other sport not already listed above.

There are winners and losers in this new schedule (see below) CIF officials had to wrangle over before Monday’s announcement just to give the athletes (and their parents and grandparents, of course) something to do besides becoming proficient in Zoom and Google Classroom apps:

1.)    Football – This is the one high school sport that makes its school and its school district some money, primarily from gate admission revenue. How many of you want to sit in 30- and 40-degree weather to watch Monterey Trail walk all over McClatchy?
2.)     Three-sport athletes – forget it. Won’t happen with this schedule, unless the track coach and the basketball coach are friends and let their guys split time with each squad. Those sports are going to be played at the same time. Braden Henderson (Class of 2013) was an All-Delta Valley Conference soccer player, swimmer and a State Wrestling Championships placer at Elk Grove High School. Isaiah Brooks was a star guard on the Sheldon basketball team and a pretty good long jumper in track and field in 2016. Mira Shulman, perhaps the best female basketball player ever at Elk Grove, was decent at volleyball and high jumping. Many, many other multi-sports athletes have impressed us over the years, but this proposed CIF schedule won’t let anyone play three sports this season. Playing two will be tough, too.
3.)     Water polo – Elk Grove Unified’s teams all swim in outdoor swimming pools. (see comment under “Football”)
4.)     Athletic Directors – They get the unenviable task of scheduling their stadiums in the spring between track and field and boys and girls soccer. Someone won’t get the artificial turf field right after school. (And, watch out for flying discuses). The end of boys and girls volleyball seasons will overlap with the start of boys and girls basketball and wrestling, too.
5.)     Families wanting to take a trip over Winter Break – forget that if your son is playing football. That season kicks off January 8. Knowing some of our coaches, he may be practicing on Christmas Day.


1.)     Any athlete who tries out for a team this coming school year– The high school experience should always include sports, music and the arts. Any attempt to field any of these activities is commendable during these times. Plus, getting the chance to mix it up with your teammates make for memorable experiences. Ask any school administrator or counselor and they’ll tell you that for many the sports experience keeps many a student focused in the classroom, too.
2.)     Club Sports - With the end of the “spring” season pushing into late June, the CIF has suspended its rule barring student-athletes from playing for a club team in the same sport during the same season. Still, don’t be surprised if some top-flight athletes surpass their high school team in favor of their club team in sports such as softball and basketball.

Questions (with perhaps no clear answers):

1.)     Will this happen at all? Probably not if Department of Public Health officials think there is still a big health risk come December.
2.)     Will fans be allowed in the stands? Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, NASCAR and the National Basketball Association aren’t letting anyone in, but they have huge television contracts that they must fulfill. High School sports is another animal. If the CIF plan actually goes into motion then don’t be surprised fans, at a minimum, will have to wear masks and be socially distanced in the stands. And, like houses of worship, attendance will be restricted to a fraction of capacity.


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