Path cleared for all high school sports to start

La Jolla Country Day School football players prepare for the new season with a coronavirus-cautious practice.
La Jolla Country Day School football players prepare for the new season with a coronavirus-cautious practice.

A drop in San Diego County’s coronavirus case rate and a lawsuit settlement allow outdoor and indoor competition, with high-contact outdoor sports and all indoor sports subject to testing for the virus.


The coronavirus numbers are finally working in San Diego’s favor, with the case rate per 100,000 residents falling this week to a modified 10.8, well below the 14 needed to resume all youth outdoor sports, including full football practice.

“Football can start contact practices and play games as long as there is a testing program in place,” said California Interscholastic Federation San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz.

Football teams in San Diego were allowed to start non-contact practices Feb. 26. The first contests in an abbreviated season are scheduled for Friday, March 12.

A temporary restraining order was issued Feb. 19 allowing high school and other youth sports to resume in San Diego County as long as they operate under “the same or similar COVID-19 protocols imposed for competition in professional and/or collegiate sports within the county.”

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Earl Maas granted the restraining order after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of football players Nicholas Gardinera and Cameron Wooten.

On March 4, the day before a hearing on a permanent injunction was scheduled, a settlement of the lawsuit was announced that enables all high school and other youth sports in California, including those played indoors, to resume in counties that reach an adjusted coronavirus case rate of 14 or less per 100,000 residents.

La Jolla Country Day School football coach Tyler Hales said “it’s so amazing to see a weight lifted off the shoulders of all of these players who have been waiting for a year to be able to compete again.”

It’s a challenge to prepare for this unusual spring football season, he said, especially with only a few weeks of official practice before the expected start of games.

The Torreys open their season Friday, March 19, at home against La Jolla rival The Bishop’s School.

“My No. 1 priority is to make sure that our players are prepared to safely take the field,” Hales said. “Luckily, we’ve been able to get workouts in throughout the fall and winter so that we are not starting at zero in terms of football readiness. But I feel good with the plan we have in place to have our players ready to compete.”

High-contact outdoor sports such as football and water polo and all indoor sports will be subject to testing for the virus.

Heinz said the biggest hurdle now is testing.

State regulations for pro and college teams set a higher bar of participation, with collegiate rules specifying that teams must compete without spectators and work with a lab that “can provide COVID-19 testing and results within 48 hours of competition for high-risk contact sports.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will bear the cost of testing for some sports. The CIF has nothing to do with testing.

UC San Diego has offered free testing to the San Diego Unified School District, said Brad Hensley of the Let Them Play CA movement.

“We want to offer different testing options,” he said. “Players can get tested on their own. They can get tested by their schools or school districts. They can work with a private organization. The biggest thing is an equity issue — boys and girls, low income/high income.”

Hales said coronavirus safety protocols at La Jolla Country Day include splash shields added to helmets, “as these have shown to greatly block droplets and hopefully minimize risk.”

“Players wear a mask for all workouts and activities,” he said. “Coaches are excellent at wearing their masks at all times. We also carry hand sanitizer to use throughout the practices/workouts and have disinfectant spray for equipment.

“Our players, coaches and families are taking this commitment to each other and football very seriously ... knowing that any positive COVID cases will drastically alter our season.”

Here is the current timetable for all San Diego prep sports:

Season 1

• Cross country — Playing

• Field hockey — Playing

• Swimming and diving — Playing

• Football — Practicing. May begin play March 12.

• Girls volleyball — First possible contest Friday, March 5

• Gymnastics — First possible contest March 5

Season 2

• Golf — Playing

• Tennis — Playing

• Track and field — Practicing

• Soccer — First possible contest March 5

• Badminton — First practice Saturday, March 13

• Baseball — First practice March 13

• Basketball — First possible practice March 13

• Boys volleyball — First possible practice March 13

• Cheer — First practice March 13

• Lacrosse — First practice March 13

• Softball — First practice March 13

• Wrestling — First possible practice March 13 ◆