Fall sports moved to Dec.

In the Central Section fall sports -- cross country, water polo, volleyball and football -- will start practicing on Dec. 14. All teams can start competition on Dec. 28, except football which can begin on Jan. 7.

Schedules announced in CIF, section decisions 

Friday night lights are moving to 2021 under the Central Section’s schedule for the upcoming athletic season.

Soon after the California Interscholastic Federation released its section, regional and state championship calendar, along with amended rules for the upcoming season, the Central Section shared its schedule in a tweet Monday.

The section’s calendar is now made up of two sports seasons with fall sports beginning practice on Dec. 14 and spring sports beginning on dates in February and March of 2021.

Making up the fall sports this year are cross country, water polo, volleyball and football. Football teams will go through their acclimatization period for the first five days, which moves their first competition date to Jan. 7. All other fall sports can have their first games on Dec. 28.

Spring sports have staggered start dates with soccer, tennis, wrestling, basketball and swimming and diving starting practice on Feb. 22. First competition date for those sports is March 8. Baseball, softball, golf and track and field begin practice on March 15 with their first competitions on March 27.

“I think it’s good news,” Lindsay High School athletic director John Caesar said. “I think everybody knew it was going to be really tough in the fall. I really appreciate being able to go to the kids and tell them, ‘Hey we’re not going to give up on you and we’re going to make sure that we do everything that we can to make sure all sports are played this year.’”

For two-sport athletes, especially those at the smaller schools, the new schedule will make it challenging for students to play more than one sport especially if their sports are now in the same season like basketball and baseball. But it’s something Caesar said coaches will work with athletes on.

“We’re a small school, kids play multiple sports and this is the year that coaches are going to have to be flexible and do everything they can to honor kids’ choices on what they want to play,” Caesar said. “The rules are clear that kids can play more than one sport in a season and so we need to make decisions on what’s best for kids. That’s how we’re going to handle it here at Lindsay.”

In an interview on ESPN 940, Central Section commissioner Ryan Tos addressed the question of why boys and girls’ golf and tennis would be played in the spring rather than start early in the fall.

“As of a few weeks ago we were hoping to get golf and tennis rolling in the fall,” Tos said. “As of right now the directive from the California Department of Health is that there is no competition allowed for youth sports, and high school sports falls under that umbrella. So even if we wanted to at this point in time, we would be going against the directive of several state agencies.”

Tos also added that golf and tennis were moved to spring because weather conditions would make it hard for them to be played during the time of fall sports in late December and early January.

Now that athletic directors have guidelines for the season, the next step is for leagues to meet and make schedules. Porterville Unified School District athletic director Richard Rankin said teams will be able to keep their full number of competitions but it’ll be tough scheduling them all.

“Your only trouble getting there is the season isn’t as long as it was before,” Rankin said. “We might have to reduce the amount of contests but that’s only because you can’t fit them all in. And every coach is different. Some will want to play a lot of games, some will want to have a little more practice time instead of games. But yes, if you can fit them in, you’re allowed to keep all the contests.”

In the press release from the CIF, it detailed the dates of when playoffs would need to be finished for each sport. They also included regional/state championships dates for softball and baseball, which is new since previously baseball and softball finished their season in the section championships.

Also in the press release were changes to three bylaws: summer period, season of sport and outside competition. Each rule change only applies to the 2020-21 school year.

The suspension of the outside competition rule is one of the biggest changes since it now allows athletes “to participate on an outside team at the same time they participate on their high school team.” However the CIF also notes that local schools, school districts, leagues and sections may implement a rule restricting this.

For the summer period, the CIF gave permission for “CIF Sections may extend their summer period up until the first date of their Fall regular season sports calendar.” The season of sport stated each section “will release their own calendar to reflect regular season starting and ending dates and Section playoffs.”

Currently PUSD schools are the only area teams still conducting summer workouts as Lindsay stopped all athletics due to Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement and per county phasing, according to Caesar. As of Monday, Tulare County had 6,896 COVID-19 positive cases and is on the state’s monitoring list.  

Since July 7, PUSD has limited its summer workouts to outdoor only due to the rising COVID case number in the county.

“As of right now we’ll continue that but we’re still monitoring that and that could change at any moment, obviously,” Rankin said.

All schedules are subject to change but for more information about the upcoming season and to view full schedules, visit cifstate.org or cifcs.org.

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