On the surface, the upcoming high school sports season is starting to look like fall 2019. The various leagues — including the Peninsula Athletic League, West Bay Athletic League and West Catholic Athletic League — all have updated the league schedules for the start of league play.
The California Interscholastic Federation has released its playoff calendar, with all the fall sports in their normal place; the Central Coast Section playoff calendar is set and now it’s a waiting game until the official Aug. 6 start to the 2021-2022 scholastic athletic season.
“I assume we are right where we left off,” said PAL commissioner Terry Stogner.
That includes reconfiguring the PAL back to where it was in 2019 and the early part of 2020. This past season, the six schools from the San Mateo Union High School District decided to form its own intradistrict division out of COVID-19 concerns. Those schools are back with the rest of the PAL and have been slotted into the appropriate divisions.
It seemed this past spring that the worse of the COVID-19 virus was behind as all high school sports got in some form of competition — whether it was a full baseball season or just five football games.
But as we enter the dog days of summer and the specter of the fall season looms, there is disquieting news on the coronavirus front as infection rates from the delta variant continue to rise in communities around the country.
That’s why athletic administrators and coaches are keeping lookout for any updates from the state in regard to COVID-19.
“You get nervous with stuff with the news starts coming out (about an uptick in infections). Hopefully, we’ve gotten past the worst of it,” said Steve Sell, Aragon athletic director and football coach, and president of CCS. “The thing that everyone is operating on is that June 15 (decision) that came from the state, when the tiers went away.”
There is still ongoing discussions about volleyball and the use of masks during competition. Considering all on-campus students will be required to wear masks as part of being in a classroom, the belief is masks will be required indoors, including gyms. Stogner said he will follow health guidelines.
Added Sell: “If things remain the same, volleyball will be played as normal, just with masks on.”
While COVID-19 continues to be a concern, coaches have to prepare as if it’s all systems go and started addressing the 2021-22 season just weeks ago as the 2021 season only finished last month.
For the PAL, that means the annual discussion about the competitive balance of the Bay, Ocean, and some cases, Lake, divisions that comprise the league. In football, for instance, San Mateo was moved into the Lake Division while Carlmont moved into the Ocean Division for the upcoming season.
There was some thought to simply defaulting to the final 2019 standings, but that was ultimately voted against.
“There was some feeling among some sports that this was a strange season to use as good data for next year,” Sell said. “But there was still a season played and you still have kids coming in (as freshmen) and moving on.”
Sell believes the fall season should go off relatively unscathed. He said there are a few more kinks to work out — including a busing policy for large teams, as well as an updated spectator policy.
As for COVID concerns, Sell said since most fall sports take place outside, the possibility of transmission remains low.
“The data shows … it’s not being passed on the field of play,” Sell said. “It will be interesting to see what happens between now and (the winter season). In high school athletics, our largest indoor games are for the (basketball) quads. It will be interesting to see if by January people really want to do that (cram elbow to elbow in a gym).”