SALINAS — The Pacific Coast Athletic League board of managers is set to meet next Thursday to discuss alternative options to resume high school sports if given clearance.
With the pandemic in its worst stages since it began nearly a year ago, all sports in California remain shut down until further notice with the local stay-at-home order extended.
The last high school sporting event held in Monterey County was on March 12, 2020, when North County hosted Marina in a track and field meet.
“There are some things in the works,” PCAL commissioner Tim McCarthy said. “But I can’t tell you what we have discussed until the board of managers makes some decisions.”
The board may have something to consider as schools in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League are finalizing a plan to have three shortened seasons for sports within Santa Cruz County.
In addition, PCAL schools Watsonville, Pajaro Valley, St. Francis and Monte Vista have been invited to join the SCCAL for just this spring, because they reside in Santa Cruz County.
Season 1 sports that would be allowed in the purple tier status would include boys and girls cross country. Under the SCCAL plan, girls golf and tennis would move to Season 1.
This move could prompt other counties in the section to follow a similar path, if for no other reason than safety precautions and cutting down on travel.
“One of the things I’ve learned is all the levels of decision making that goes into this, goes all the way down to the individual school,” McCarthy said.
Teams in the SCCAL have played football in the PCAL for the past three years. The resumption of the SCCAL for the sport would be just for this season if approved.
Football for the SCCAL would be moved to its Season 2, which is slated to begin on March 1. Of course, football would have to jump two tiers to orange to be allowed to play.
However, there is a petition circulating gaining momentum asking the California Department of Public Health to move football to the red tier.
“We don’t have a drop-dead date for football,” Scotts Valley athletic director and football coach Louie Walters said. “But we’ve informed the CCS we won’t be taking part in the postseason.”
While Monterey County has been in the purple tier since July, there are sports that can be held if the state and county lift the current stay-at-home orders, which was extended indefinitely.
Back in July, the California Interscholastic Federation adopted a plan that postponed the start of sports due to the pandemic, moving three seasons into two, starting Dec. 14.
That date was pushed back because of the pandemic and the increased number of COVID-19 cases in California. No new date has been established for the restart of sports.
“At this point, it is up to the state health department,” McCarthy said. “They are driving youth and high school sport’s decisions right now. I suppose our county could be stricter.’’
California was one of a handful of states not to have fall sports this past season.
The only sport in the CIF’s Season 1 plan that could occur in the purple tier if the stay-at-home orders are lifted next month is cross country.
“We could see cross country in Season 1,” McCarthy said. “We could see swimming and diving, track and field, golf and tennis in Season 2.”
Of course, with golf being one the few sports where you can socially distance, finding a course to compete could become the next obstacle — as well as the lack of daylight in the winter.
That could prompt a decision to move girls golf and girls tennis back to Season 1 — much like the SCCAL is proposing — if sports in the purple tier get the green light next month.
That, though, would eliminate any potential postseason play for those two sports.
For now football, which is in the orange tier, is on definite hold. Time is running out on having any sort of a season this year in Monterey County.
“Every sport not in the purple tier is on hold as far as competition,” McCarthy said.
That would include baseball and softball, whose seasons normally would start on Feb. 1. Both sports in Monterey County would need to climb out of the purple and into the red.
Under the CIF plan, Season II is slated to begin in mid-March.
What could be on the PCAL board agenda for the sports that are deemed safe is making league schedules with the ability to adjust or cancel, going to a county-only format, or just remaining on hold.
“Everyone is trying to do the right things, safety- and mental health-wise,” McCarthy said. “It’s out of our control. We’re all chomping to open things up. But the virus numbers control this.”
What has helped kids and coaches throughout this nearly year-long pandemic has been the conditioning programs most schools have installed for all athletes.
“What we can do is be flexible and allow schools to get their kids as active as allowed,” McCarthy said. “Those of us involved know how important it is for kids to participate.”
Contributed by local news sources