May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

New state guidelines don’t allow high school sports competition until at least Jan. 25, 2021

As the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, return to play guidelines for high school, club and youth and adult sports were announced Monday evening by the California Department of Public Health.

Competition will not be allowed until at least Jan. 25, 2021 and teams are prohibited from competing in out of state tournaments and if sports are allowed to eventually return, they will be grouped by tiers in each county.

“The return-to-competition date will be reassessed by Jan. 4,
2021 based on California disease transmission trends and is subject to
change at any time given the level of COVID-19 transmission in California,” the release from the state said.

“Teams must not participate in out-of-state tournaments; several multistate outbreaks have been reported in California residents and around the nation.”

The release noted the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic as cases continue to surge in the state and Orange County. The Orange County Health Care Agency reported there were 3,250 cases (no deaths) on Monday in Orange County. The agency reported 3,121 cases and 14 deaths Sunday.

“COVID-19 continues to pose a severe risk to communities and requires all people in California to follow recommended precautions and adapt the way they live and function in light of this ongoing risk,” the release stated. “This guidance provides direction on outdoor and indoor youth and recreational adult sports activities to support a safe environment for these sports.

“The guidance applies to all organized youth sports — including school- and
community-sponsored programs, and privately-organized clubs and leagues — and adult recreational sports (hereafter youth and adult sports). This guidance does not apply to collegiate or professional sports.”

On the return to sports plan, sports would be grouped by tiers and it appears that significant strides would have to be met between now and Jan. 25 in curbing the virus for most sports to take place.

“I am frustrated with the guidelines,” said Irvine Unified School District Athletic Director Mark Cunningham. “Sports that were considered moderate have now been moved into high risk. We are basing everything on the tier system.

“Forty other states have allowed athletics to continue regardless of the tier they were in.  There have been problems in a few states but for the majority of states very minimal problems. I wish they understood the harm mentally on our athletes.

“Why would you not want athletes to have contacts with their coaches who would do everything in their power to keep their athletes safe?  I am hopeful that the guidelines can be readjusted to allow our athletes an opportunity to participate.”

Under the plan released Monday, counties would have to drop back to the orange or moderate tier to play sports such as football, boys lacrosse, water polo, soccer and volleyball. Most counties are still in the most restrictive purple tier.

Basketball and wrestling could be conducted in the minimal yellow tier. Baseball, softball, girls lacrosse and cheerleading would be allowed in the second, substantial tier.

Sports (described by the state as low impact sports) that would be allowed in the most restrictive tier (widespread) would include cross country, swimming and diving, tennis, golf and track and field. Cross country and track and field have been held in different seasons in the past.

CIF state officials said on Dec. 1 they would be providing an update after Jan. 1 on the plan for high school sports in 2021 and CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said he would have an update on Tuesday, Jan. 19.


(No sports until at least Jan. 25, 2021)

Widespread tier (purple)

Cross country


Swimming and diving

Track and field


Lawn bowling

Subtantial (red)



Field hockey

Girls lacrosse


Moderate (orange)


Boys lacrosse


Water polo


Minimal (yellow)



Ice hockey

Ice skating (pairs)

Martial arts

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;