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Column: Creativity Will Create Chances In 2021

While we happily put 2020 in our collective rear view mirror, I hope the high school sports community uses the harsh lessons learned over the past year to get creative in the new one.

Like most of you, I miss the normal sports schedule, but I think it’s counterproductive to hold out hope for any seasons to look like they have before with non-league preseasons, league play and the postseason.

I fear the desire for normal activity could get in the way of having any activity, and in the case of getting sports back on campus, close should count.

This week, the California Department of Public Health will update its safety assessment as it pertains to the tiers guidelines released in December. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) State office is also expected to make an announcement next week concerning a revised 2021 high school sports schedule and the proposed Jan. 25 restart date.

We’ve all got our fingers crossed, but we need to prepare for the worst. Hasn’t 2020 already taught us that?

CIF State has cancelled its playoffs in an effort to make room for sectional postseasons, and I think we need to continue that trend of creativity in order to get more games.

These student-athletes deserve something, and the governing bodies have to find ways of providing that experience — even if it’s unorthodox.

I think schools can get more games played if the CIF State office leave cities and leagues to their own devices as sports return to campuses. We’ve seen NCAA basketball teams struggle to get on the same page between non-conference games, and I can only imagine the confusion before a game between teams from different counties dealing with varying COVID-19 issues.

Here in Long Beach, it just makes sense to let the Moore League compete amongst itself before and during whatever season is available. Everything is easier when its a local opponent, and it doesn’t just have to be league play. These local teams could also scrimmage each other to get as many games as possible. These kids just want to play, and we should let them.

I also think we need to exhaust every option to have indoor sports moved outside. The most recent science strongly suggests that outdoor activity is safer than indoor activity, and we should give high school basketball and volleyball players the option to compete in the safest environment available.

I know everyone wants to have a typical schedule with multi-week postseasons, but I think planning smaller tournaments are much more likely to happen. They could be hosted at one location equipped to deal with COVID-19 protocols. Maybe some of the local junior colleges left empty by their recent shutdown?

Think of it like international club soccer where every team plays for multiple trophies every year. Furthermore, I think there should be a contingency plan for holding tournaments in the summer if the school year basically gets whipped out. Why not?

Organizations such as the American Legion organize prep baseball tournaments every summer. Some seniors even come back after graduation to participate. This could be offered for other sports, and other districts could even get involved by creating All-Star teams to play series against each other. It should all be on the table right now.

The CIF Southern Section will update its plans on Jan. 19 and I hope they do it creatively. We can’t let an effort for perfect and normal be the enemy of good.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.