Health department releases new youth sports guidelines

Byron Tran and YJ Si

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released new youth sport guidelines Monday. These guidelines separate sports into different risk profiles based on their level of contact and transmission risk. Different sports will be authorized for high schools in their respective counties based on the county’s tier of COVID-19 case rates.

For example, sports like tennis, golf, cross country, and track and field are considered low-contact, outdoor sports, meaning that these are permitted in counties that are in the purple or “widespread” tier. If San Diego is able to lower its case rate to be in the red tier, schools within the county will then be permitted to play moderate-contact outdoor sports like baseball and field hockey. In the orange tier, football and volleyball will be allowed, but observers will still be limited. Basketball and wrestling, as indoor, high-contact sports, will be allowed when the county reaches the yellow tier, or “minimal” spread.

The CDPH announcement also gives guidance on safety procedures for practices and games. Face coverings are required for all sports, and participants are strongly encouraged to physically distance themselves. Coaches are encouraged to facilitate this, for example using staggered starts to races rather than a mass start. CDPH also encourages sanitation of shared equipment before use by another person or team. It also announced that only immediate household members of sports participants are permitted to observe practices and games, but are still subject to social distancing from non-household members. Capacity limits indoors must also be maintained, which vary by the tier that the county is in.

As of Dec. 1, the California Interscholastic Federation San Diego Section (CIFSDS) had postponed official sports practices and games until Jan. 1 at the earliest. In the midst of Monday’s updated guidelines, CIFSDS commissioner Joe Heinz announced Monday that the section is reviewing their season-one sports plan and will make another announcement in the coming days. 

The CIF state office also announced that all regional  and state championships for the first of the two seasons of sports have been canceled as a means to create a longer sports season for more student-athletes. According to the CDPH announcement, inter-team competitions will not be permitted until Jan. 25 at the earliest. Tournaments or events involving more than two teams will also not be permitted, but exceptions may be made for sports like track and field, golf, tennis, and cross country. CDPH also plans to reassess the return-to-competition date Jan. 4, but it is still subject to change at any time based on the level of COVID-19 transmission. 

Athletic Director Steve McLaughlin held a community forum regarding the future of sports in the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) Dec. 9, presenting the current state of sports at Westview. In this forum, he explained Westview’s plan for restarting sports.

Currently, Westview sports are operating unofficially under the “club” umbrella. As official school sports and practices have not been authorized, athletes who have returned to campus are currently conditioning as part of Westview-affiliated clubs, which are permitted under the CIFSDS guidelines. According to McLaughlin, these sports currently fall under the guidelines of out-of-season sports, which are funded by the Westview Foundation.

“Instead of calling yourself Westview athletics, you can call yourself Wolverine football, or Wolverine basketball or Wolverine track and field,” McLaughlin said. “Once the [official season] starts, our clubs could then transition to Westview sports.”

From left to right: Natalia Velasco (9), Sydney Heyn (9), Kira Carter (9), Genessa Ong (10) do freestyle dribble drills in the gym Nov. 17. According to the new CDPH youth sport guidelines, official indoor basketball practices and games will be permitted when the county reaches the yellow “minimal” tier. (Photo by Carter Kangas)

Once these clubs transition into official Westview teams, practices and tryouts would begin, and teams would then be able to schedule and coordinate official games.

Funds from the Westview Foundation ensure these Westview-affiliated clubs are able to properly cover their program costs until Westview is able to begin an official sports season.

However, the uncertainty doesn’t end when sports officially begin. In an effort to maintain funding to other departments, the district has cut the athletic budget of each high school by approximately 40%—from $85,000 to $50,000. Without the access to external revenue sources, such as gate revenues from game attendees that had previously accounted for $40,000 to $50,000 annually as well as community efforts to fundraise and donate, Westview may find it difficult to fund its programs. 

“We’ve had to come up with really creative ways, in order to meet those [budget cuts],” McLaughlin said. “[We’re encouraging athletes] to find their own transportation to a specific site [when playing games or attending meets].”

Athletes who previously relied on buses for transportation to games and meets may struggle to find transportation without them. PUSD, however, has considered options to mitigate the struggle for these students. According to McLaughlin, PUSD is making the effort to balance the number of home versus away games in order to ensure certain athletes will not have to travel more than others. 

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Amidst the uncertainty of the upcoming sports season, McLaughlin said that PUSD is emphasizing the need to stay within state guidelines and regulations. 

“I want to make sure that we’re following the guidelines so that we’re doing it the right way,” McLaughlin said. “It might look a little bit different [from a traditional sports season, but] our focus is going to be on what is safe and what is allowable.”

This information is updated as of Dec. 14. Westview administration is currently awaiting guidance from CIFSDS on where the sports season currently stands.