BY RACHAEL GARCIA
Editor of the Record Gazette
The long awaited guidelines for high school sports were issued Monday, Dec. 14 by the California Department of Public Health, which will implement the state’s color-coded tiered system for COVID-19 monitoring.
The tiered system will distinguish what sports will be allowed to compete, but with a caveat — counties need to first exit the state’s current regional stay-at home orders.
Once the county is out of the current regional stay-at-home orders, the guidelines state that competition could begin as early as Jan. 25 — with facial coverings — but the CDPH will reassess the guidelines by Jan. 4.
That means the Jan. 25 start date could change dependent on health conditions.
Youth sports in general have been limited during the coronavirus pandemic, but high school sports have not had an update from the CDPH since Aug. 3.
Many local athletic directors predicted the new CDPH advisory would be tied to the colored tier system, but thought that the success of high school in other states might prove to be a model for the CDPH.
“Our hope was that evidence from other states where high school sports have been successfully played on a normal schedule would be reflected in the CDPH guidelines, said Beaumont High School Athletic Director Martin DuSold. “Instead, the news is, in general, disappointing.”
With respect to indoors or outdoors, sports will be divided into low-contact sports tier, moderate and high contact and indoor moderate categories.
The purple tier sports (low-contact) include: archery, badminton, biking, bocce, cross-country, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and rowing among others; while the red tier (moderate-contact) includes baseball, cheerleading, dodgeball, field hockey, gymnastics, kickball, girls lacrosse and softball; the orange tier includes outdoor high-contact sports, which includes basketball, football, boys lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, water polo and indoor low-contact sports: badminton, gymnastics, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and volleyball.
The yellow tier includes indoor moderate contact sports and indoor high-contact sports.
Most counties in the state, including Riverside County, are in the most restrictive purple tier, which would only permit competition for low-contact sports.
“I am grateful to see that some of the lowest risk sports (archery, cross-country, golf, mountain biking, swimming, tennis and track) will have the opportunity to compete while out county is still in the purple tier, with strict guidelines in place, “ DuSold said.
The CDPH said its guidelines were made after consulting the CIF State among others.
DuSold said he believes that the district and school administration, parents and student-athletes are committed to providing and following protocols and guidelines to safely allow students to compete.
The new guidelines show a potential opportunity for all sports.
The CDPH said that outdoor conditioning and skill training are permitted even under stay-at-home orders.
“I believe that all schools in our Citrus Belt League (Cajon, Citrus Valley, Redlands, Redlands East Valley, Yucaipa) would work cooperatively to find ways to give our students the opportunity to participate safely,” DuSold said.
Although there are still concerns about the record number of COVID-19 cases in the county and the state and permitting high school students back to their extra-curricular activities, DuSold is worried about students feeling disconnected from school.
“We cannot charge ahead without taking those numbers into account,” Dusold said. “However, I am disappointed for our student-athletes, and once again our seniors… along with the increases in COVID-19 cases across our country and state, I feel that another serious concern is the emotional, mental and social health of our students as they face this extended disconnect from school and their co-curricular activities.”