Schedules for the Peninsula Athletic League “Purple tier” sports have been posted on the PAL website with games and matches scheduled to begin as early as this week for boys’ and girls’ cross country and swimming, and girls’ golf and tennis.
There will be some quirks to schedules and divisions — forget how you view the Bay and Ocean divisions this season — but the bottom line is, what parents and athletes have been clamoring for for the last several months appears to finally becoming a reality.
“The big picture, at least for San Mateo district schools, is to get kids outside their home, get them doing something with their peers,” said Jimmy Ikeda, San Mateo golf coach. “The emphasis is not on competition, but to get out there and be physically active.”
While the ability to get student-athletes back on the field, in the pool and on the course has been a point of emphasis, it begins as the COVID-19 pandemic is still an underlying issue.
“I still have [conflicting] thoughts on this,” said Bill Smith, longtime Burlingame tennis coach. “On one hand, we’re testing and going through COVID protocols that make you wonder why (we’re returning to competition). At the same time, I see the value in this. The parents are happy. Everyone is happy.
“But you can’t forget we’re dealing with something that is, literally, deadly serious.”
Schedules may have been drawn up and preparations for those games and matches have started, but there are still final details that need be hammered out. In cross country, for instance, many schools have to decide between holding virtual meets that will be run on the track, and in-person meets that will require more detailed planning as the traditional cross country venues are not available at this time.
In addition, many teams will eschew buses to transport entire teams to sites and will put the onus on the athlete to find their own transportation to meets, matches, games and races.
“The schedule Terry (Stogner, PAL commissioner) published, it basically gives us a specific week (to host events), but it’s up to the coaches to negotiate the day and time,” said John Lilygren, cross country coach at Carlmont.
For the San Mateo Union High School District schools playing golf, Ikeda said he had already worked out agreements with two golf courses to host district teams and is still negotiating with a third golf course.
Tennis teams have to determine the best way to maintain some kind of competition equity — which could result in just doubles matches being played or some other compromise on how matches will be conducted.
“It’s the final details … that we’re trying to iron out,” Ikeda said.
While Ikeda was referencing golf, he could have talking for all the sports scheduled to start.
Another common thread weaving through all these sports is that standings will not be compiled this season. Times and scores will be kept by coaches and teams, but they won’t be applied to any kind of team championship or postseason berth.
It may sound good, in theory, but the bottom line is that no matter how much schools may say they’re not keeping score — the fact of the matter is, they will be keeping score, because they are coaches and athletes who want to know who the best is.
“At first, I was a little tentative. But all it took was being with the athletes for a day or so and it was, ‘OK. We’re back into it,’” Kelly said. “I definitely got my competitive juices going.
“I know only one way to coach — and that’s to make the most competitive team I can.”