COVID-19 continues to jeopardize the start of high school sports


Enzo Carvalho

The Carlmont field remains empty and unused as the school year moves forward.

When will high school sports start again?

That’s the question that all high school student-athletes have been left wondering about. 

While the answer is still uncertain, there are a few keys that help decipher the problem.

According to the California Interscholastic Federation, sports have been split into four different categories: outdoor low-contact, indoor low-contact, outdoor high-contact, and indoor high-contact.

These four categories are respective to the four color-coded tiers that measure the spread of COVID-19 in different counties in Calfornia. In the purple tier, there outdoor low-contact sports. There is a mix between outdoor high-contact sports and indoor low-contact sports in the red and orange tiers. Finally, in the yellow tier, there are indoor high-contact sports.

To put more simply, in order for a sport to be played competitively, the county must be in the same tier for which the sport is designated.

At the moment, there are no specific dates for the start of any sports season. However, that does not mean that nothing is being done to try and bring back sports. Representing Carlmont, athletic director Pat Smith and athletic administrator Grant Steunenberg will attend a district meeting on Jan. 21, where all schools in the Sequoia Union High School District will vote on whether or not to start a competitive season for sports in the purple tier. 

“We want to make sure we are all on the same page,” Steunenberg said. “If we feel like it’s going to be a good idea for these sports that are in the purple tier to begin competitions, then we will try to start them as soon as we possibly can.”

Although this meeting could yield an official schedule for the start of some sports, there is no guarantee that it will not change later on. 

“Right now, we’re in a deep purple tier since we are under a stay-at-home order in addition to being in the purple tier. Because of this, sports cannot start,” Steunenberg said.

While sports do not yet the green light to begin, athletes can do some activities to stay ready.

“[Athletes] can be in pods, which are groups made specific to the team or sport to work on player strength and conditioning,” Smith said. “But there cannot be any traditional practices with contact, scrimmages, or drills that emulate the sport.”

Schools can organize sessions with players of a particular sport to maintain the players’ health and physical form. Players can also practice by themselves if possible. 

“We’re trying to stay hopeful. Just wear a mask, stay socially distanced, and be safe. Try to keep all those things in mind until things return to normal,” Smith said.

Sports are split into different categories depending on their physical contact level and location. (Enzo Carvalho)

As players wait for sports to start, patience and hope are key. For athletes who play sports in the purple tier, there is a better chance to play competitively this year than for athletes who play sports in the yellow tier. Tennis, an outdoor-low contact sport, for example, belongs to the purple tier.

“I don’t mind playing against other schools since there isn’t a lot of contact. I would say I’m hopeful that there will be a season,” said Keegan Lemke, a sophomore tennis player.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, there are the yellow tier sports. Among them, there is basketball, an indoor high-contact sport.

“I don’t think there will be a basketball season this year,” said Alex Wong, a senior on the varsity basketball team. “Plus, I’m worried that I would be exposing myself to others who may have [COVID-19]. The risk is high.”

With most of California being in the deep purple tier and increasing COVID-19 infection rates, there is no exact date for when sports will start.

But there is still hope.

The outcome of the district meeting on Jan. 21 could be crucial in determining a clear start for the sports in the purple tier. This process will repeat when the county falls into the different tiers.

“We are trying to find a means to get students active. Being stuck at home all day is not the best situation from a physical or mental health standpoint,” Steunenberg said. “Doing something active is going to be good for them. If they have something to look forward to, it might provide them with the motivation they need to keep up with their academics.”