The tides are turning for California high school sports. With new rulings coming down from leagues, it is looking like sports will be taking place after all this year.
On January 21, the Blossom Valley Athletic League put out their new timeline for starting high school sports. This came four days before the announcement from Governor Newson to rescind the stay-at-home order and return to the county-tiered system of localized re-openings allowing sports to start up.
The Blossom Valley Athletic League (BVAL) is a high school sports league in Santa Clara County and a part of the Central Coast Section (CCS). The league released a comprehensive rundown on the start dates and, more importantly, the cancellation dates for all sports.
The objective is “to give student-athletes the maximum opportunity to participate in the maximum amount of contests,” according to the BVAL.
This is what you need to know:
First off, every sport is assigned to a certain colored tier. This is based on the same tiered system as Santa Clara County. As of today, Santa Clara County is in the purple tier, the most restrictive of the tiers designated in the state of California. As the county drops in tiers, more sports will be allowed to play.
Purple tier sports: cross country, golf, track & field, swimming, tennis
Red tier sports: field hockey, baseball, girls lacrosse, softball
Orange tier sports: football, girls and boys volleyball, water polo, badminton, soccer
Yellow tier sports: basketball, CSC cheer, wrestling
The BVAL released start dates for each sport. This is the date a team can start practicing and holding tryouts assuming the county is in the appropriate tier for the sport. This practice period spans two weeks.
During those two weeks, all teams must adhere to the CIF and NFHS guidelines which are to maintain “six feet of physical distancing, and within stable team cohorts remain authorized, regardless of county tier status.”
After the two weeks are up and all teams are authorized, games and competitions can begin. The start date for Season 1 sports is February 22, and for Season 2 sports it’s March 22.
Season 1 sports: football, cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, and boys/girls water polo
Season 2 sports: badminton, baseball, basketball, CSC cheer, boys/girls golf, girls lacrosse, boys/girls soccer, softball, track & field, boys/girls tennis, boys volleyball, and wrestling
The next important day is the competition end date. This date represents the last day a game, match, or meet can be played if the season is permitted.
For Season 1, the final competition date is April 17, and for Season 2, it is May 28.
However, the Season 2 end date can be changed depending on whether CCS or CIF playoffs take place, which is unlikely. CCS playoffs have already been ruled out for Season 1 sports.
Based on the latest announcement from the governor's office, cross country appears to be on track to be the first sport to start on February 22. It is the only sport among the ones designated for Season 1 that has been designated in the purple tier. Field hockey (red) would be next in line, followed by orange-designated sports football, girls volleyball and water polo.
As of today, playoffs for Season 2 sports have not been ruled out, with the final section championship games tentatively scheduled for June 19 and the final state championship games set for June 26. For the official CCS website and all the dates please visit http://cifccs.org/calendar/2020-21_CCS_Starting_Dates.pdf.
The most important date, however, is the cancellation date. This marks the last possible day a certain sport can start no matter what. It is the end all of this treacherous journey.
For Season 1 sports, that day is March 26, and for Season 2, it’s May 10. This means, for example, that if Santa Clara County is not in the orange tier by March 26, no football will be played in the 2020-21 school year.
The cancellation date does not change the competition end date or the two-week mandated practice time, however. That means that if Santa Clara County were to move into the orange tier on March 25, the last day possible, football would still have to practice for two weeks, leaving only one game to be played.
“BVAL principals were adamant about keeping the possibility open for at least one competition, specifically for seniors,” according to the statement released by the BVAL.
It is clear that the BVAL wants and hopes for the start of sports in this school year. They are doing everything in their power to regulate safe and fun seasons for all sports.
Third-year Branham head football coach Stephen Johnson sees the new guidelines as a positive first step.
"It makes things a little less restrictive," said Johnson. "The main thing to me is there is no time allotment (on) how long we can be out on the field. We can have our whole team out there at once versus the whole 16 players-to-two-coaches cohorts which weren't nearly as convenient."
"Those two main points with the guidelines obvious day one, I would argue, make things better for us.”
Johnson is holding out hope that he will be able to continue the upward trajectory of the program he took over in 2018. Last season, the Bruins were co-champs in the BVAL-Santa Teresa Division and lost by one point in overtime against Milpitas in the CCS Division 4 championship game.
“Getting the March 26th definitive date is (key to whether) football is happening or not happening," Johnson said. "Obviously no one wants football to not happen, but I feel we've been strung along long enough now. It's like 'put me out of my misery.'”
Prior to the latest announcement, teams were restricted to limited workouts with cohorts up to 16 players. Now based on the latest guidelines, an entire program can work together.
“I feel like how we're still approaching it as a staff is still in three-week increments," Johnson said. "We can only plan to what tier we foresee ourselves being in.”
Despite the uncertainty Johnson remains "absolutely hopeful" there will be a season.
"I have no reason to not be optimistic," he said. "I just feel like this is going to work itself out."