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CIF postpones start of prep sports
• California Interscholastic Federation waiting for guidelines from state
Amare Padilla plays
Ceres High’s Amare Padilla and other student-athletes from Stanislaus County don’t know if they’ll get to play sports this year due to COVID.

Student-athletes from high schools in Stanislaus County, including Ceres and Central Valley, received disappointing news on Dec. 1.

The California Interscholastic Federation’s 10 sections have postponed the start of Season 1 sports until after the New Year due to the continued surge in COVID-19 infections.

“The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) does not expect the CDPH (California Department of Public Health) will issue any guidance allowing for schools to return to full practice and competition until after January 1, 2021, at the earliest,” CIF stated in a press release on social media. “Thus, all full practice and competition start dates are officially on hold until updated guidance is issued.

“Therefore, to provide the 10 CIF Sections, our 1,605 member schools, and more than 800,000 student-athletes the best opportunity to compete in Season 1 Sports, once allowed by the CDPH and local county offices of public health, the CIF State Office is removing all Regional and State Championship events from the Season 1 Sports calendar. By canceling Regional and State Championship events, more student-athletes will have the opportunity to participate in a longer season, rather than a truncated season with Regional and State post-season play for a limited number of schools.

Additionally, boys volleyball will be moved to Season 2 to avoid the loss of a second full season, and an updated Season 2 calendar to include boys volleyball will be posted in January.    

The CIF is confident this decision is a necessary and reasonable action for our member schools, student-athletes, and school communities in light of the current statewide crisis. This revision to the CIF State 2020-21 Season 1 Sports calendar offers our Sections and Leagues the flexibility and needed time to plan for the return to practice and competition once updated guidance is provided by the CDPH.”

“We have to follow what our local leaders, governor and public health officials tell us to do,” Central Valley Athletic Director Greg Magni said. “We’re hopeful as the New Year rolls around the kids will get an opportunity to play. I’m going to stay optimistic.”

“I’m heartbroken,” Ceres High junior football/basketball/volleyball player Verlis Smith said. “We’re back to square one now. It’s getting my hopes down about having a season.” 

“I found out on Twitter,” Central Valley senior football/baseball player Isaiah Hidalgo said. “Again. That was my reaction. It’s pretty frustrating. We had a date to look forward to. Now, it’s being pushed back.”

“It wasn’t news we wanted to hear,” Bulldogs’ senior football player Amare Padilla said. “None of us were surprised. It feels like the season is never going to come. Coach (Clinton) Goblirsch has been preaching focus on what we can control. Personally, it’s really taken a toll on me. What bugs me the most is whoever is controlling high school sports, it feels like they don’t know how to deal with the situation and work with restrictions. We can learn from other states. Tons of other states are playing sports right now. I feel nothing is going to change if the (COVID) numbers go up or down (in California).”

The CIF condensed three seasons of high school athletics—fall, winter and spring—into two seasons on July 22 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All practice and competition start times for Season 1 sports, including football, water polo, cross country and girls volleyball, were put on hold on Dec. 1.

“I’ll wait for the (Sac-Joaquin) section to release newly established start dates,” Magni said. “This will be the third time we’ve made adjustments to our calendar. We just want kids to be active and to be able to compete.”

Practice and competition will not be allowed until Gov. Newsom and California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly provide new return-to-play guidelines. The state postponed the issuance of its updated youth sports guidance due to the continued surge in COVID-19 infections.

Stanislaus County moved into the “Purple” tier under California’s color-coded coronavirus reopening system on Nov. 16.

Football was supposed to kick off on Jan. 8 with first official practices slated for Dec. 7. “We were scheduled to get our equipment at the end of the (last) week,” Padilla said.

Volleyball (Dec. 29), cross country (Dec. 28) and water polo (Dec. 28) seasons were supposed to get underway in December.

Season 2 sports include soccer, tennis, wrestling, basketball, swimming, baseball, softball, golf, track and field and boys volleyball.

Soccer is scheduled to begin on March 1.

Tennis (March 8), Wrestling (March 8), basketball (March 9), swimming (March 22), baseball (March 22), softball (March 22), golf (March 29) and track and field (March 29) have later projected start dates.

“We’re back to where we were in March,” said Mike Rodriguez, who coaches boys basketball, and boys and girls tennis at Central Valley. “I wish we could play. If the experts are saying no, you have to follow the guidelines.”

“It’s frustrating,” Hidalgo said. “They’re messing with everyone’s hopes.”

“It’s a serious situation,” Smith said. “It’s how the world is at the moment. We just have to live through it.”

“At this point, we got to take what we can get,” Magni said.