First practice dates in the state emerging as potential key measure for fall sports

As high schools across California continue to wait for permission to resume competition, December 7 has emerged as a potentially important date to check amid speculation that the pandemic will delay the start of the fall season.

December 7 marks the first day of scheduled soccer practice in four of the 10 sections in the state, including three from Northern California.

The North Coast Section based in San Ramon, the Northern Section based in Chico, the Sac-Joaquin Section based in Lodi and the Central Section based in Fresno cite December 7 as the starting date for football training sessions. The December 7 date is the earliest start for football training in the state and could provide some insight into the direction of high school athletics in the state.

The Southern Section, most of the state, will begin practice sessions for games starting Jan. 7-8, 2021 on Dec. 14.

As of August 3, all California sections have been restricted by the California Department of Public Health to conditioning and skills training and are not allowed to participate in competitions. Gavin Newsom said on Nov. 16 that he had agreed to new guidelines, but the state had halted the release amid increasing COVID-19 cases.

Ron Nocetti, executive director of the CIF, said this week that his federation is still awaiting the guidelines.

The fall sports season in the southern section starts on December 12 with boys’ volleyball games. Workouts were also scheduled to begin December 14 in the LA City Section.

Nocetti warns that high school sports observers should remember the impact of local decisions, even after guidelines for competition have been established.

“If the state guidelines come out, that won’t prevent local counties or local school districts or even some schools from being more restrictive than the guidelines,” he said. “You will see that because we are so diverse in terms of geography and where these cases are present.”

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, no state has generally canceled high school athletics for the school year.