By Zach Cavanagh

High school sports in the Capistrano Unified School District saw a spark of life last week that can give San Clemente High School athletes some sliver of hope for an as-normal-as-possible fall sports season.

On June 8, CUSD announced a tentative start of July 6 for high school sports conditioning camps, which would follow National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), county, state and federal health and safety guidelines.

“Capistrano Unified School District values our co-curricular athletic summer camps and the opportunities these camps provide our high school students,” the CUSD statement said. “School connectedness through athletic teams provides our students with lifelong friendships and dynamic opportunities to thrive in our school cultures. Our school summer Conditioning: Phase 1 camps will tentatively begin on July 6th, with appropriate measures to ensure student health and safety.”

The CIF State office also released its own set of guidelines on a return to physical activity and training on Friday, June 12. The CIF guidelines mostly follow the NFHS guidelines and also the state’s, as the CIF has throughout the process, that reopening athletic programs will depend on the reopening of schools as determined by the districts and other powers that be.

The CIF release, which came after a teleconference last week between the CIF State office and the 10 section commissioners, also stated that the fate of fall sports will be determined by no later than July 20.

“At this meeting, there was a lengthy discussion regarding the various scenarios that relate to Fall Sports,” CIF-Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said. “In the effort to give as much time as possible to make the most informed decision we can, it was agreed that there will be an announcement from the CIF State Office addressing the status of Fall Sports to be made no later than Monday, July 20.”

Per the CIF guidelines, CIF is offering a 30-day waiver to obtain the necessary pre-participation physical, due to possible difficulties students could have in getting those examinations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The CIF guidelines also outline that facilities should be wiped down and sanitized prior to each group entering for workouts; start and end times for these sessions should be staggered to avoid crossover; all coaches and students should be screened daily for any symptoms of COVID-19; water bottles and food should not be shared, and water fountains and coolers should only be used to refill personal bottles; and state, local and district guidelines for face coverings should be followed.

When these workouts resume, there are many physical limitations as outlined by the CIF.

In its Phase One, CIF says to follow local county guidelines for the number of people allowed for gatherings inside or outside and to maintain the minimum six feet for social distancing. CIF recommends workouts to be conducted in “pods,” with the same group of 5-10 students working out together weekly. In its Phase Two, CIF sticks with the county rules for indoor gatherings but allows for up to 50 people for outdoor workouts.

These all come with the limits on activities and equipment, which certainly affect some sports more than others.

“It’s about re-acclimating with players and coaches,” San Clemente football coach Jaime Ortiz said. “We’re trying to do it right and take care of our student-athletes. If we can get back, it will bring a sense of normalcy that helps everyone mentally and physically.”

For sports such as cross country, track, swimming and golf, any return to practice, even with these proposed limitations, will be mostly normal.

For more equipment-heavy or interactive team sports, it will be more difficult.

Volleyball, soccer, basketball and water polo are recommended to have individual ball-handling drills, with each player having their own ball and no other players touching that ball. Baseball and softball will be able to hit off the tee, but the balls used must be collected and cleaned before another use. Football can run drills with proper distancing, but a ball cannot be passed around or a tackling dummy cannot be shared. Wrestling can conduct mirror drills, with proper spacing, and individual skill drills.

All sports are allowed conditioning, and that’s what most sports will look like in the initial periods.

All dates are tentative, the groups will be small, and the activities will all be extremely limited. Even so, local sports teams are a few steps closer to retaking the field.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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