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By Zach Cavanagh

The earliest possible start date for youth and high school sports competition remains Jan. 25, as the state’s scheduled date to reevaluate its most recent guidance on sports passed without update on Monday, Jan. 4.

On Dec. 14, the California Department of Public Health delivered its first guidance on youth sports since August, which had guidelines tied to the state’s four-tiered, color-coded coronavirus monitoring system. Sports are assigned to each of the state’s four risk tiers based on indoor or outdoor competition and low, moderate or high contact in those sports.

The date Jan. 25 was established as the possible return-to-play date, provided that a county or region was no longer under the state’s regional stay-at-home order. As of Thursday, Jan. 7, four of California’s five regions remained under stay-at-home orders, including Southern California.

The next date of evaluation is Jan. 19, when the CIF-Southern Section will update the status of its fall sports championships. It is expected CIF-SS will cancel its fall sports playoffs to try and provide those sports more time to schedule a regular season. The CIF State office has already canceled its fall sports regional and state championships.

Under the shuffled 2020-21 CIF sports calendar, the fall sports season includes football, girls volleyball, boys and girls water polo and cross country. Boys volleyball had been shifted from the spring to the fall, but to avoid the possibility of canceling its season in back-to-back years, boys volleyball was moved back to the spring.

With the state’s weekly tier updates, CIF provides updates on what sports can return to competition in which counties. Graphic: CIF-Southern Section

If the stay-at-home order is lifted in Southern California by Jan. 25, cross country will likely be the only fall sport that could return to play, as it is the only fall sport listed in the purple “widespread” risk tier by the state’s December guidance.

The first scheduled spring sports start date is Feb. 22 for girls tennis, followed by boys tennis on March 1. Tennis is allowed in the purple tier. Other spring sports in the purple tier are swimming, golf, and track and field, which are scheduled to start on March 13, March 20 and March 20, respectively.

The red “substantial” risk tier includes only spring sports:  baseball, softball, girls lacrosse and outdoor cheerleading. Baseball and softball are scheduled to start on March 19 and girls lacrosse on March 12. Competitive sports cheer, normally contested indoors, is scheduled to open on March 27.

The rest of the fall sports—football, water polo and girls volleyball—are slotted into the orange “moderate” risk tier. Orange County and nearly all of the Southern Section have not entered the orange tier since the tier system was introduced in August. The orange tier also includes soccer, boys lacrosse and boys volleyball.

Basketball, wrestling and indoor cheerleading are in the yellow “minimal” risk tier.

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

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