With the end of 2020 in the near distance, the scramble to prepare a 2021 plan of action is at the top of everyone's list. In California, high school sports have been on hold due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Specifically in the Bay Area, the Central Coast Section (CCS) league has been working on a plan to resume sports and await the state's green light.
These are uncharted waters for everyone in positions of power and decision-making, but more-so for newly named CCS Commissioner David Grissom.
California, let alone the world, hasn't dealt with a pandemic of this length and havoc.
Grissom was named Commissioner in July and has held numerous positions in High School administrations across the state. The most recent being principal of Mountain View High School. But being a commissioner is a lot different than a principal. Grissom now has to manage a whole league and figure out a way for student-athletes to compete during a pandemic.
"My ultimate goal is to get kids to a point where they can compete with one another," said Grissom.
Along with serving nearly 75,000 student-athletes from San Francisco to Monterey-Bay, the CCS has to follow ordinance from the California Interscholastic Federation (C.I.F.) and the state.
"My life as a CCS Commissioner is far different from anybody else's life as a CCS Commissioner, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic," said Grissom.
Talk about a tall task for your first months on the job.
California first shutdown in March, and it wasn't until mid-summer that there was any decision making for the CCS. The thought of not being able to play in fall sports for high school athletes, let alone seniors, was a gut punch.
"I understand that there isn't much you can do while we are in a pandemic," a senior volleyball player at Pacific Grove High School said. "But if we don't have a season, I'm not sure I'll have an opportunity to play again."
In July, the CCS executive committee put out a schedule for the year with two different seasons, combining fall, winter, and spring. The schedule had Season 1 start practice on Dec. 14th. But later, on August 3rd the California Department of Public Health, Governor Newsom, and the C.I.F. put out guidelines for what youth sports could and could not do.
Why yes, guidelines were created, there wasn't any forward progression. COVID-19 numbers continued to rise across California, and Governor Newsom stated that he has signed the guidance but has put it on pause for the growing concerns with the virus statewide.
"So that's where we are. Waiting for that guidance to drop," said Grissom. "Once that guidance drops, it will allow practice to start and Season 1 to begin. There are some concerns on what sports would be allowed based on what color tier your county is presently in. But until that guidance has been released, we won't know specifically what sports lie in what area. We are basically stuck in a waiting game."
CIF did release a statement on Dec. 1st regarding that no movement will be made until 2021. The statement also specified removing all Regional and State Championship events from the Season 1 sports calendar. The reasoning was that more student-athletes would have the opportunity to participate in a longer season of another sport rather than a shortened season.
— CIF State (@CIFState) December 1, 2020
"We are in charge of three things, governance in our section, eligibility, and section playoffs," said Grissom. "And we are focused on what we can control."
However, some factors can be anticipated, and Grissom said he has an idea of how the sports will be scrutinized. The state will put sports into tiers based on the athletes' proximity and whether it is indoor or outdoor. Health officials share more concern about indoor sports and those with contact. The hope is to remove any unnecessary action and physical contact.
Some schools have been doing independent workouts depending on the sport and have allowed athletes to do socially distant activities outside. Schools have the final say after the state allows forward progress of high school athletics. The school or district can choose to be more restrictive than the county is.
"I have a senior at home who plays multiple sports and I'd love to get to a point where I see him play again," said Grissom. "Every other parent feels the same way. But we have to do so in a safe manner."
The CCS will have an executive meeting on January 14th, hoping to set concrete starting dates for sports and practices to resume.