The Northern Section moved one step closer to finalizing a 2020-21 prep sports calendar that will provide the framework for member schools to plan for a return to competition. 

During an Executive Committee meeting Aug. 26 held at the Shasta Union High School District board room, section representatives discussed a number of scenarios for the calendar, consolidated from nine months to roughly six months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

What was ultimately decided on is a proposal that aligns with the California Interscholastic Federation calendar for regional and state championship purposes, but also offers alternatives for member schools and students who wish to compete in multiple sports.

The calendar is separated between fall and spring, with the fall sports — football, volleyball, cross-country, field hockey, skiing and snowboarding, and competitive cheer — beginning in either December or January.

Specific to football, basketball and soccer, there are two different timelines that schools can choose between based on their needs and interests.

One is called “three sport,” a slightly condensed season that concludes with the section playoffs, but also has less overlap in seasons for multi-sport athletes.

The other is referred to as “state qualifier,” which will align with the rest of the CIF and allow member schools to not only compete in section playoffs, but also give them an opportunity to advance to Northern California regional as well as state championship venues.

For example, both football season competition dates begin Jan. 7, but league competition for “three-sport” ends one month earlier (Feb. 19) than schools in the “state qualifier” option (March 19).

“This is a flexible calendar, so schools and leagues can meet the needs of their students and communities,” Northern Section commissioner Elizabeth Kyle wrote in an email to the Enterprise-Record. 

The calendar will be on the agenda of the section’s Sept. 16 Board of Managers meeting, when league presidents and member schools can give input on the proposed dates.

Pending the outcome of the meeting, the section will use Nov. 1 as the declaration deadline to determine how many member schools will be in each division for section playoffs. Certain divisions could then possibly be combined for the playoffs, Kyle said.

However, there will be some overlap between sports normally separated between winter and spring seasons, an inevitable outcome of a sports calendar shortened by three months of what it would normally be.

Typical winter sports, basketball, soccer and wrestling, will now be part of the spring season. Basketball begins on Feb. 22 (three season) and March 29 (state qualifier), respectively; soccer begins Feb. 22 (three sport and March 9 (state qualifier), respectively; and wrestling begins March 29.

Those sports will now run up against other spring sports, such as baseball, softball, golf, tennis, swimming, and track and field, all of which have a March 29 start date for competition. Swimming, typically a fall sport that takes place outdoors, was moved to spring.

Of course, this plan is contingent on COVID-19 trends improving among counties in the section and the rest of the state. The California Department of Public Health released youth sports guidance on Aug. 3 that prohibits outdoor and indoor sporting events, and any other “activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating.”

Realistically, those restrictions will have to be loosened in order for prep sports to return in California. Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland and Illinois are among the other states that have pushed back fall sports.

Prior to the CDPH announcement, the Northern Section kept open the possibility of playing certain sports in the fall, and said the health guidelines would be decided by each of the 13 county health departments across the section. That possibility was essentially ruled out by the statewide guidance released by the CDPH.

Additional details on the proposed calendar and meeting dates can be found on the Northern Section’s website, www.cifns.org.

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