High school football

Pigskin fever – Among the issues with the return of high school sports in December will be how to safely transport athletes to and from road games. Photo by Michael Lucid   

The resumption of high school sports will be one of the most anticipated by-products of a return to normalcy during the 2020-21 school year, as California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) officials and school administrators continue to monitor the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the many topics to consider when play resumes is how to best transport athletes to and from road games without compromising state health guidelines and individual safety.

The main concern centering around transportation will be the need to minimize close contact among teammates, particularly football teams with rosters that can number anywhere from 25-50 players.

Although health officials will likely advise a limited capacity of student-athletes congregating on buses, local school administrators don’t see this as an obstacle going forward.

“I haven’t made any plans yet, but the truth is we’ve moved away from busing for most athletic events due to the (lack of) availability of buses and the fact that prices have gone through the roof,” El Molino High School Athletic Director Mike Roan said. “I would anticipate relying on parents and kids to self transport for most events to eliminate the logistical headache and reduce the contact a bus ride would provide. If we do need to line up buses for transportation, then yes, reducing the size of the group per bus would be the route we would take,” he added.

Analy Director of Athletics Joe Ellwood concurred, citing a move away from bus transportation that began several years ago.

“Because of the unavailability of buses we’ve gone to meeting at most events,” Ellwood said. “The only events that we haven't been having kids just meet at are the long ones, to say Ukiah. We’ve used very few buses in the past couple of years and my guess is that we’ll use even less now. We’ll just have to play it by ear and see where we are by then (in January) and make adjustments if necessary.” 

Last week, CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti resumed talks with state health officials regarding the launch the 2020-21 high school sports season.

“Now that the California numbers are starting to show improvement, we’ve re-engaged with the California Department of Health on when and how to return as scheduled in December,” Nocetti said during a videoconference call with the CIF Federated Council on Friday.

Among the topics discussed was transportation, with an acknowledgment that it will be up to each school and district on how to get athletes to and from games in the safest possible manner.   

“We obviously want to hear from any school districts that have concerns on how they’re going to transport kids to games so we can bring that forward to the appropriate agencies,” he said, adding that social distancing protocols could potentially force districts to spend more money on transportation.

Although final approval must be given by the state, the CIF is moving forward with its schedule to begin playing fall football games and other sports in the first week of January.    


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