There are, at last check, 10 games on Citrus Valley High School’s football schedule when prep play comes to life after the winter holidays.
In these COVID-19 times, that amounts to a cheerful outlook.
“Think about that,” said Boyd Lium, the athletic director on that campus. “The Pac 12 is going to seven games. Other states (high school games) are on hold right now because if someone gets COVID, they’ve got to stop everything to test.”
Lium, who is like everyone else in the pandemic-crazed world of education, sports and beyond, is awaiting word.
Yes, games are scheduled to begin in January.
There has yet to be clearance, however, from state government leaders on whether those games can be played.
“The state isn’t even allowing us to have competition yet,” said Lium. “Right now, though, I’m pumped to have kids back on campus.”
By Thursday, Oct. 1, Redlands Unified School District officials had cleared its athletes to begin conditioning for its January-based sports.
San Bernardino Unified, as of last week, still wasn’t in position to clear its athletes for any kind of participation.
“Our district cleared us,” said Redlands High Athletic Director Estevan Valencia. “Every district is different.”
Private campuses such as Arrowhead Christian Academy had its football workouts, said Eagles’ coach Rod Robison, underway.
“Just limited by smoke the past 10 days, or so,” he said, referring to the massive forest fires nearby.
Said ACA Athletic Director Russell DeKock: “We have been conditioning since the county opened it up.”
Don’t get excited, though, Redlands.
Still to come is clearance to begin sharing equipment, skill drills (in groups of 10) while comporting to testing protocol that begins with taking temperatures — athletes, coaches, team managers and anyone else connected with an athletic program.
Medical athletic clearances, said Valencia, now includes COVID-19 testing.
“That’s part of the packet,” he said. “We even have to clear our coaches.”
While remaining optimistic, athletic directors everywhere are still in cautionary mode.
Valencia said his coaches were set to start on Thursday. “Coaches don’t have to condition every day,” he said.
Students, athletes on-campus mix
If students don’t return to campus, what makes anyone believe athletes will be able to compete?
“That’s a great question,” said Valencia, “that the CIF has not addressed at all. How can you have athletics if students aren’t even coming back to campus? To me, one affects the other.”
Noting that a hybrid form of education — part attending school, part distance-learning — Lium admits competition athletics might be in jeopardy.
Purple stage 1, considered the most stringent in California’s reopening framework, seems content to keep San Bernardino schools on lockdown. To reach that red stage 2 level, COVID-19 cases must trickle downward to a low percentage — and remain that way for several days.
Students, meanwhile, are distance-learning at all age levels, especially in public schools.
“That’s tough to see,” said Lium. “It wears on those kids.”
Prep sports were cancelled in the early stages of Spring 2020 season. Weeks went by before CIF-Southern Section officials could blend a competitive calendar together that was set to begin after Jan. 1.
Fast forward to Fall sports, which was wiped out in early summer months. By June, CIF-Southern Section officials had formed a complete calendar for Fall, Winter and Spring sports. Those three seasons of athletics were crammed into a two-season calendar between January through May 2021.
Local high school athletic officials are awaiting a three-step protocol:
• Permission to compete.
Even in his own home, Lium sees his daughter, Abigail, a Citrus Valley soccer and volleyball player, and his son, Brock, who plays football for the Blackhawks, nerves are, perhaps, frayed.
“Every day, they’re telling me, ‘get us playing, dad.’ They’re on the same roller-coaster ride everyone else is.
“On days they’re down, I’ve got to be up.”
Football draws extra attention
Football, of course, is on everyone’s mind.
Redlands (2-8), which must rebound from the loss of transferring QB Trent Young to Cajon, and once-perennial playoff contender Redlands East Valley (0-10) didn’t come close to reaching the 2019 playoffs.
Lots to improve on with a pair of second-year coaches, Redlands’ Mike McFarland and REV’s Rich Lunsford. It gets no easier under the current pandemic climate.
Citrus Valley (9-3) seems on a roll with third-year coach Kurt Bruich.
Lium, perhaps, reflects his district’s football sentiments: “We’ve got 10 games on our books and a scrimmage. That’s as normal as we can make it.”
Lium has described coaches on their campuses as “eager,” “ready to go,” and “full of questions.”
One week, said Lium, “(Citrus Valley volleyball coach) Tina (Raddish) is pessimistic. The next week, she’s fired up.”
Bruich, he said, “is all pumped up and ready to go.” Everything is on hold, however, until improving COVID-19 numbers, and possibly a vaccine, would vastly change activity.
“We haven’t done any of this before,” said Valencia, noting that his school’s first-year athletic trainer, Jessica Henson, along with school administrators and RUSD Athletic Director Pat Hafley are setting the process.
For a while, Citrus Valley’s campus was being used as a testing site. It has since been moved over to a small-school campus in San Bernardino.
RUSD opening conditioning drills, said Lium, “so we’ll be the guinea pigs.”
Said Valencia: “We’ll get better at this as we move along.”
Practice protocols, sanitation stations, touchless temperature checks are all on display.
In December, said Lium, “our (school) board is going to have to make a decision.”
Masks, social distancing and a 10-to-1 ratio of coaches and athletes will be monitored closely, said Valencia.
Conditioning, said Valencia, seems like a big first step. “It’s actually a small step. Small as it is, it’s still a big step.”