Heritage/Liberty soccer

Press file photo 

Several traditional winter sports, such as soccer, will now commence in the spring under a new high school sports schedule released this week. 

The usual high school sports are planned for the upcoming school year, but the normal sports seasons are in for a change.

In the wake of the state’s attempts to control the spread of the coronavirus, California’s high school sports governing body has announced that the school year’s typical three sports seasons will be condensed into two, with official first day of practice dates not set until December at the earliest.

“I am really thankful for the amount of hard work and time the California Interscholastic Federation Executive Committee and 10 section commissioners put into drafting what in my mind is a best-case scenario model,” Heritage Athletic Director Nate Smith said. “What it enables us to do is really keep all full seasons, or as close to full seasons as possible, for every sport.”

The radical, pandemic-induced changes mean that traditional fall sports—including football, cross-country, water polo and girls volleyball—won’t begin official practices until the end of the year.

Typical winter sports, including basketball, wrestling and soccer, will shift to the spring season; girls golf and girls tennis, both traditionally in the fall, will now play out in the spring; and boys volleyball, ordinarily a spring sport, will now take place in the fall.

The reworked plans are contingent upon COVID-19 disease metrics allowing organized sports to resume.

“That’s the million dollar question,” said Freedom football coach Andrew Cotter. “We are just praying that people stay safe and these numbers go down to let these kids have their full seasons.”

The layout envisions cross-country, football, boys’ and girls’ volleyball and boys’ and girls’ water polo beginning official practices in mid-December, with their seasons wrapping up in March or April.

The packed spring season, featuring at least 10 sports, would commence in February or March, potentially running until late June.

Some postseason setups are also slated to change.

All section championship events will remain in place, but sports that typically go from section championships to regional playoffs to state title events, including football and basketball, will now likely end their seasons at the regional round. Other sports will feature a familiar run from section to state championship events.

Thrown into the crazy schedule mix is a slew of potentially unavoidable conflicts, including multi-sport athletes forced to choose one sport; coaches’ duties overlapping; and a run on available practice or playing facilities.

But athletes, coaches and athletic leaders reached this week say they will gladly tackle those challenges, because it means sports are back.

“Given that there will only be two seasons this school year, things have clearly changed,” said multi-sport Heritage senior star Renny Buchannan, who set out as a freshman to letter in all 12 of her seasons.

“We are all in uncharted territory, and although I did have my goals for high school sports, I know God has a greater plan in store. I will continue to work hard and train to stay in shape until the seasons begin. I look to perform as best I can in the time we are given, and not put too much focus on things that are out of my control.”

Liberty track and cross-country senior Keene Sample agreed.

“I think most of us are excited (about the season), because a lot of us are seniors, and we heard rumors that it was going to be straight up canceled,” he said.

Currently, it’s unclear when organized team activities will resume in the Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD).

Contra Costa County and the district were allowing schools to conduct small, 12-player outdoor sport camps, but those activities were halted last week after three district students tested positive for COVID-19, apparently contracted outside of their county health services-approved workout pods.

“At this time we are on hold,” said LUHSD Superintendent Eric Volta Wednesday morning. “With sports not starting until December it does not make sense to take unnecessary risks.”

To view the complete North Coast Section proposed sports schedule, visit https://bit.ly/3hsdWip.