California high school sports & coronavirus: Grim reality is rescheduled start hanging by thread- 11/11/20

California high school sports & coronavirus: Grim reality is rescheduled start hanging by thread Commentary: As much as we want high school sports back, an explosion in COVID-19 cases couldn’t have come at a worse time PITTSBURG, CA – NOVEMBER 23: Liberty’s Beau Dionio (27) grabs a touchdown pass while being guarded by Pittsburg’s Brian Andre Pierce Jr. (3) in the third quarter of their North Coast Section Division I semifinal football game at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Pittsburg defeated Liberty 21-14. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) By DARREN SABEDRA | | Bay Area News Group PUBLISHED: November 11, 2020 at 10:10 a.m. | UPDATED: November 12, 2020 at 7:16 a.m. I badly want high school sports back, but the grim reality is setting in. It’s not looking good. I sit and work in my home office every day, in the room next to my daughter’s. Sophia is a senior. She would’ve been just finishing her final season of high school water polo. And who knows? Her team might’ve won a league championship and maybe a couple of games in the section playoffs. But like thousands of teenagers across the state, she sits and waits, the thrill of competition relegated to social-distancing conditioning workouts with her club and high school teams. We all know the California Interscholastic Federation and its sections have set a date for sports to return. That December date has been circled on the calendar since the CIF made the announcement in July. But what does that date mean? The CIF wants to proceed as planned and will do so until told otherwise by state and local health officials. But are those officials — not to mention school boards — really going to flash a green light in the next couple of weeks given that coronavirus case numbers are exploding and reopening plans are shifting in reverse for many counties? Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, was asked specifically about high school and youth sports in a news conference Tuesday. His response felt like another official kicking the proverbial can a few more feet down the road. He told colleague Dan Albano of the Southern California Newspaper Group that new guidelines will be coming “soon” for competition in high school and youth sports, adding that decisions could be determined by the state’s COVID-19 tier system for each county. “We are working closely with CIF and other youth sports leaders, interscholastic sports leaders, to ensure that we are aligned in the guidance,” Ghaly said. “It will provide clarity as to when competition can take place.” Back in the summer, when the CIF announced that sports would be delayed for four months, some coaches worried that things might be even worse in the winter with the pandemic joining arms with flu season. But we all remained cautiously optimistic that the virus would somehow magically improve and sports would come back in force when December arrived. Now that optimism feels like a prayer. Late last month, Bay Area Preps HQ started a series of stories to assess the temperature in the room, doing Q&A’s with commissioners from some of the region’s top leagues. Having read or edited all of them to this point, I know the commissioners are doing their best to be ready when the time to play comes. But will it come? At this point, I can’t help but think of them as airport passengers on standby, waiting, hoping, praying that their names are called, knowing full well that they might not be — that practice might not start in December and games might not be played in January. “There’s a lot of hurdles we have to get through to have games in January,” Jolene Fugate, the commissioner of the West Catholic Athletic League, told our Shayna Rubin last month. “The biggest hurdle is working with our counties. “There are so many things with the county that come first. There’s a lot of things on the county’s plate that fall in front of high school athletics, so I understand why it hasn’t been a focal point. The biggest hurdle will be to get information that we can use. They’re working with our task force, we just don’t have guidelines.” She knows the reality. She knows that cases are on the rise and testing, which is mandatory for college and pro sports, is far too costly at the high school level. “The only thing that that I can tell you about testing is that there’s not a school district probably in the state of California that would be able to afford the kind of testing they’re talking about with professional athletes,” Steve Ahonen, commissioner of the Bay Valley Athletic League, told our Curtis Pashelka. “The resources just aren’t there.” My daughter’s last high school game was a year ago, in the North Coast Section playoffs. Her team, Washington-Fremont, played Foothill-Pleasanton at Northgate in Walnut Creek. It was one of the most memorable games my kid’s team played, a 10-9 triple-overtime loss that was heartbreaking but had us all looking ahead to this season given the number of juniors who would be seniors this fall. To think that might be it saddens us to no end. But as much as we don’t want to admit it, as much as we want to keep hope afloat until the last possible second, the chances of the rescheduled season starting “on time” are hanging by a delicate thread. We know that. And I have to think we’re not alone.