Return to Learning: School athletics adjust after virus upends normal seasons

Return to Learning

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what many assumed would happen with high school sports in California has become a reality.

Instead of the traditional fall, winter and spring seasons, the California Interscholastic Federation moved to a two-season model for this school year, with games beginning in early January.

“I think what this does is it provides for the best experience with a full season. Including pre-season, league, section postseason and one week of possible regional or state play,” CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti explained. “I think it provides the most opportunity for the most students.”

The Sac-Joaquin Section, which handles most of the high schools locally, will start with football, soccer, cross country, volleyball and water polo.

Students playing these five sports can begin practicing in December, with the first games scheduled for close to the new year.

“The most important thing is we get back to playing, and yes it’s probably going to look different,” Sac-Joaquin Section Assistant Commissioner Will Deboard said. “Certainly the dates are different. But, we hope — and you talk to these kids, we kind of need to be out there.”

This plan also impacts other sports like basketball, baseball, softball and golf.

Their seasons will have to start much later than usual and some may extend into June 2021.

“That’s why we went with the two-seasons model. Because it provided a little less overlap between seasons,” Nocetti explained. “The one impact there is there are going to have to be choices that will need to be made by student-athletes that normally play multiple sports.”

“I mean, there is always that fear that the season could not happen,” Rocklin football player Cole Becker said. 

“We’re playing off the hope and the trust that we’ll have a football season in January,” Cole’s dad, Scott Becker, said.

College recruiting is also a major concern.

For players still hopeful that their seasons can lead to scholarship offers, there is no guarantee that games will be played in 2021.

Cole Becker is the No. 1 ranked kicker in the country but he and his family are still waiting for scholarship offers that may not come now until spring.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride to see which colleges are wanting to wait and see kids live,” Scott Becker said. 

“I’m not super worried about who’s talking to me, who’s getting offers right now, who’s not,” Cole Becker said. “I feel like I’ll be OK in the end.”

But, that probably won’t be the case for most athletes.

And for the ones who do get offers early, there may be a chance they don’t play at all in the spring for their high schools.

“I hope that is kept to a minimum and we can kind of all fight through this together and support each other and stay unified in what our purpose is and what our goals are,” St. Mary’s football coach Tony Franks said.

“While we know there may be some student-athletes that have to make some choices, for example football players who may leave early for college, we understand that,” Nocetti said. “But, I think this plan does the best it can for most student-athletes.”

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