Sporting competitions in the Central California Athletic League, which includes Turlock and Pitman high schools, will begin this month for some sports following the approval of a three-season schedule released on Tuesday.
While the schedule won’t include a postseason for any sports, CCAL leadership crafted a plan which will attempt to see all sports take place during the last four months of school, tier allowing. Each league in the Sac-Joaquin Section was required to create their own schedule, with an earliest start date of Feb. 1 and a latest end date of June 12 with the exception of football, which must end by April 17.
According to the schedule released on Tuesday, Bulldog and Pride teams in the purple tier are permitted to begin practice this week, including cross country, swim, girls golf and boys tennis as part of “Season One.” The first league matches for Season One will be held Feb. 15.
Other purple tier sports, like girls tennis and boys golf, are included in Season Two along with orange tier sports volleyball and football, and can begin practice on March 1 if Stanislaus County is in the correct tier. Football, however, is scheduled to begin practice on Feb. 22. CCAL Commissioner Ed Felt said the league tried to space purple tier sports throughout the spring semester in case the area doesn’t make it to the next tier, which would be red.
Season Three features track and field (purple), baseball/softball (red), water polo (orange), soccer (orange), basketball (yellow) and wrestling (yellow) with a practice date of March 29 (March 22 for pitchers and catchers) and competition date of April 12.
Felt described the sports schedule as a “framework” for what’s to come, with districts working out plans for transportation and safety protocols. There has been no decision on whether or not fans will be allowed at high school sporting events; for now, the league is simply hoping the coronavirus numbers will dip low enough for sports beyond the purple tier to be played.
“I’m hopeful, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. My job is to make the schedule so if we get the green light, we’re ready to go,” Felt said, and addressed whether or not he thinks sports beyond the red tier will take place. “I hope it does. My wife and I have been playing by the rules since last year. We’ve seen but haven’t touched our grandchildren in almost a year...We’ve done everything we can to contribute to getting the numbers down, but until our county gets its numbers down it’s out of our control.”
Felt joked that should Stanislaus County remain in the purple tier for the rest of the school year, high schools could possibly see track teams with 500 members — students looking for any sort of athletic competition to take part in since being away from sports since last March. At Pitman High School, athletic director Dave Walls said he’s noticed a slight increase in interest for some purple tier sports.
Like the students, he’s eager for both PHS and THS to compete again.
“We’re actually doing something now and we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s been really exciting, but it’s also kind of nerve racking because obviously we have about four months left in school and we’re going to try to do the best we can to get everything covered if we can,” Walls said. “If the colored tiers don’t work out with this, we can only do what we can do.”
Stanislaus County has moved from the purple tier into the red tier only once since the Blueprint for a Safer Economy was released in California, and that was in October. Since then, the data locally has worsened for the most part. Currently in Stanislaus County, there is an 11.3% positivity rate (seven-day average) and an average of 45 new COVID cases per day per 100,000 residents. To move into the red tier, the daily cases per 100k must be between four and seven, and the seven-day positivity rate must be between 5% and 8%.
The requirements for the orange and yellow tiers are stricter.
While many are eager to get back on the field, Felt said he’s seen some hesitation from coaches both young and old who are nervous to be in large groups again.
“Everybody gets excited when the government says the stay-at-home order is lifted, but that puts a lot of pressure on people because we still have to do it right and we’re dealing with health issues of our students and staff. We have to make sure whatever we do is going to continue to follow the different protocols to ensure students and staff are being healthy and not contributing to the problem,” Felt said.
Walls would love to see Stanislaus County get into the red tier, which would mean all spring sports, which missed last season, would be able to be played this year. Football was included in Season Two despite being an orange tier sport in order to allow for the state-required three months in between football seasons.
“I’m always an optimist, but at the rate we’re going I think we’re going to have a hard time getting there,” Walls said. “History would tell us over these last six or eight weeks that being in the purple, wow that's kind of tough.”
Still, he’s excited that at least some sports will begin this month.
“Some might not admit this, but I will: we’re just like the kids. We’ve been in this battle with COVID, dealing with the ups and downs the whole year. At first you’re excited and you’re ready for the fight, but I have gone through periods where I’m tired of everything. Now, I’ve been rejuvenated and I’m a little bit excited. I want to do a good job.”
Now that the schedule is set, CCAL leadership will get to work with districts to hammer out details such as venues for events, like golf courses and tracks, as well as other safety details. Felt shared that Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Trevethan wants to get students involved in extracurriculars again, but as safely as possible. Soon, he hopes, schools will be in talks to bring back other programs, like band and drama, as well.
“We’re moving as fast as we can and are trying to do it without making too many mistakes. Today was the first step,” Felt said. “I think this will set a good model and hopefully others will be able to follow.”
For more information about the CCAL schedule, visit www.ccal209.com.