May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

What’s ahead for CIF water polo and volleyball? Two coaches share their thoughts

Coach Kyle Kim-E (second row, second from right) with his Northwood boys water polo team at the end of last season. (File photo courtesy Michael An, For OC Sports Zone)

Two high school coaches in Irvine are keeping hopes alive that their teams will be able to compete in 2021 amid plenty of uncertainty and changing scenarios due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both coaches have been preparing their teams for the start of play this month. But on Dec. 1, the CIF State Office announced that high school sports were on hold as officials waited for return to play guidelines from the California Department of Public Health.

The guidelines were announced Monday and left the door open to possible competition (none before Jan. 25, 2021) based on a tier-system related to coronavirus cases. But both sports are currently grouped in the moderate or orange tier. Orange County is now in the more restrictive purple tier so coronavirus cases would have to drop significantly for both sports to be held, unless schedule changes are made.

Kyle Kim-E, who coaches the boys and girls boys water polo teams at Northwood High School, said he is still hopeful.

“Despite the recent guidelines from the CDPH, I still think that there’s a possibility that we play water polo this school year,” Kim-E said. “I have been stressing to all of the boys and girls in our program about the importance of being perseverant and resilient. Now, more than ever, we need to persevere and remain resilient through this frustrating, unpredictable period of time.

“The student-athletes that I coach truly inspire and motivate me; the last thing I want to do is give up hope. My promise to them has always been that I’m going to keep showing up and I’ll be there for them whether that means we have to continue practices focused on individual conditioning drills or we’re doing at-home workouts over Zoom. But, quitting is not an option for us. 

“With all of that being said though, I think one thing that we have learned and seen in this COVID environment is that we are not necessarily all in the same boat, but rather in the same storm. In other words, COVID has affected different areas in different ways. Some areas are having more challenges than others. We have to understand that.

“Although I feel completely safe and comfortable with the guidelines that we have in place, it is not enough because if we want to play (any) sports this school year, then it will take a collective effort by everyone within our county and ‘Southern California region.’

“I know that my student-athletes will continue doing their part because all of us want to be playing water polo games as soon as it’s safe to do so. I hope others do their part as well so that we can see all sports compete sooner than later.” 

Woodbridge High boys and girls volleyball coach Alan Ho is also waiting to see when his teams could play. CIF State officials have announced that boys volleyball will be moved to the spring but the Southern Section is polling member schools to see if that’s the option they would like.

“I think it would be a benefit for everyone if boys got moved to the spring, it would give the guys that didn’t get a chance to play their league schedule last year a chance to compete in league play,” Ho said Monday before the CDPH announcement.

Irvine Unified School District teams have returned to conditioning drills like many in the county.

“We haven’t been able to do tryouts so we’re really just working with the returners from last season,” Ho said.  “This means I have no idea what our freshman class looks like. 

“There was a two-week window where we were able to get in the gym and work on drills where two players would share one ball, then we hit purple tier and we were allowed in the gym again. We’ve been doing strength, conditioning, and agility training outdoors. It’s been tough because those are definitely not the things that most athletes love.”

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com