Most high school sports on hold under updated state guidelines

California Department of Public Health document show what sports can be played depending on a county's color tier.
(California Department of Public Health)

After more than four months of waiting for a youth sports update from the California Department of Public Health, high school sports teams received new guidance Monday, according to a document being circulated to school district superintendents, and then posted on the CDPH website.

The guidelines leave little hope for fall sports, such as football and girls’ volleyball, to take place in the middle of surging COVID-19 cases, particularly in Los Angeles County.

A CDPH chart pegs sports to be allowed based on the state’s color-tiered system on test positivity and adjusted case rates for COVID-19. For football or girls’ volleyball to take place in January, February or March as scheduled, a county would need to be in the moderate orange tier. Los Angeles County has been in the purple tier for months and would need to go into red and then orange. There should be some counties in California that can reach that orange tier, however.

Another major sport, basketball, would need to be in the minimal yellow tier to have indoor games take place in March.

On the positive side, outdoor sports such as golf, cross-country, track and field, and tennis can be held if a county is in the purple tier, according to the chart. Baseball, softball and cheerleading can be held under the red tier.


While the obstacles are huge, parents, athletes and coaches at least will have a path forward in figuring out what needs to take place to have a sports season for the 2020-21 school year. The California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports, will have to figure out a revised calendar.

The fact that vaccines are now available and could help lower positivity rates in the weeks and months ahead is a ray of hope, but fall sports athletes who had their seasons delayed in July while waiting to see if the coronavirus could be controlled face long odds.

“A lot of sports will not be able to play this year. It’s really sad,” said one high school football coach who requested anonymity because his district is preventing coaches from talking to the media.

The document states no inter-team sports competitions would be allowed before Jan. 25 and the return-to-competition date will be reassessed by Jan. 4. The document states teams must not compete in out-of-state tournaments as many club teams have done during the pandemic.

The CIF intends to have conversations with state and health officials to try to make adjustments, according to executive director Ron Nocetti.