Cross-country

Cross-country is one of the sports that could see a return in 2020, according to Sac County Public Health.

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Galt Warriors received new football uniforms that head coach Tim Cobleigh had planned to unveil during the 2020 season.

With COVID-19 still a concern, however, playing in those uniforms could be delayed indefinitely.

Summer sports camps are normally underway in June every year; however, this year Zoom is proving to be an important source of connection for preparing for the fall season for local prep teams instead.

With plenty of safety measures in place, playing high school sports could become a reality in the upcoming school year depending on what local school districts, along with Sacramento County Public Health and student-athletes and parents, deem feasible.

“I know all the governing bodies and the school district have done a good job. I’m pretty confident that, when the time comes, we’ll be directed in the right direction,” Cobleigh said.

On June 2, Sacramento County’s office of education released a set of recommended guidelines, should local school districts decide to open up this fall. Among them are a list of sports and extracurricular activities it recommends, as well as a list of high-risk sports that it does not recommend.

The list comes a little over a week after the National Federation of State High School Associations released its guidance on re-opening high school sports.

Among the examples of sports Sacramento County Public Health recommends, if schools are reopened, are swimming, diving, golf, tennis, cheerleading, cross country, and track and field.

SCPH notes that these sports should only take place if social distancing and modifications can take place.

“We could make it work. We really could. Another key facet with phase two is that the numbers increase to 50. If need be, we could conduct activities outside,” Liberty Ranch athletic director and varsity football coach Anthony Linebaugh said on June 1.

SCPH added that for close contact sports such as basketball, football, soccer, baseball, softball, wrestling, volleyball and water polo, they are not being recommended, but SCPH added that other organizations such as the California Department of Education and local authorities are working to make the return of these sports a reality as long as it can safely take place.

In its guidance for reopening high school sports that it released May 19, the NFHS noted that “NFHS member state associations are a well-respected voice” and when looking at how to safely restart sports, the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee “strongly urges” that the NFHS state associations talk with state and local health departments in regard to developing policies for restarting sports.

Among the main points of the guidelines were three phases. The second phase noted that lower risk (which are “sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors”) sports practices and competitions can take place.

The first phase noted that individual drills can take place but did not mention competition specifically, also required that sharing equipment such as balls is not recommended.  As far as checking for players and coaches’ health, screenings are recommended for COVID-19, including taking temperatures of those involved in team practices.

Phase one also noted that no more than 10 people can gather at one time, inside or out; locker rooms cannot be used, and a minimum of six feet needs to be between individuals at any given time.

“With the phases, those low risk sports, by the time you get to phase two, you can get a modified practice. It’s stringent but, I think, it’s a step in the right direction,” Linebaugh said.

The NFHS noted that athletes that prefer to wear facemasks during sports activity that doesn’t require a lot of aerobics could do so but that face shields are not allowed due to the potential to injure athletes.

The number of individuals that can gather at one time increases to up to 50 in phase two of the NFHS plan, and locker rooms are allowed as long as athletes stay six feet apart from one another.

The NFHS notes that “moderate risk” games and practices can take place in phase three; those sports are listed as those that involve close contact with protective equipment in place, intermittent close contact, group sports or sports that involve equipment that cannot be cleaned between each use by athletes.

It lists examples, including basketball, baseball, soccer, water polo, swimming relays and girls’ lacrosse.

Among moderate sports are volleyball, baseball, softball and tennis, but the guidelines note that these sports might be eligible for the lower risk category if equipment is cleaned and participants use masks.

In addition, modified practices can take place for higher risk “sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.”  Examples include wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance.

“I think we’re all kind of anxious. We were all excited about the off-season and getting prepared. Looking at our roster in the springtime, we were looking at having over 40 kids on the roster on the varsity team for the first time,” Cobleigh said.

Sac-Joaquin Section Assistant Commissioner Will Deboard said that the start of high school sports within Section member schools depends on the schools, and that the CIF will react and set a playoff calendar after schools develop a plan.

Some of the overall guidelines addressing the reopening of high school sports included maintaining good hygiene, making sure sick individuals refrain from coming to practice or games, making sure hand sanitizer is available at all physical activities, and the absence of the usual sportsmanship practices of fist-bumping and shaking hands before or after games.