Sports

SCVAL to go it alone; league with local schools approves 3-season plan

Melody Ghaffari
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos High’s Melody Ghaffari plays a singles match against Monta Vista in the fall of 2019. Under the SCVAL’s three-season sports calendar, girls tennis would begin competition Feb. 15.

Hoping that it’s found a better path to playing all sports this year, the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League is opting out of the Central Coast Section’s two-season schedule in favor of its own plan.

The 14-school league – which includes Los Altos and Mountain View highs – changed course last week, with the SCVAL Board of Managers unanimously approving a three-season calendar set to start next month that includes every sport. Under the plan, each truncated season would start with two weeks of practice, followed by six weeks of league competition. There will be no playoffs.

“We’ve decided this is what’s best for our 14 schools,” league commissioner Brad Metheany said Thursday afternoon, just hours after the principals serving on the board voted for the proposal. “It’s not a perfect or normal configuration, but this gives us a chance to give everyone hope of getting some games in and having some sort of fun – and not be so worried about championships and trophies.”

The SCVAL had been worried about Santa Clara County’s stay-at-home order, which prohibits athletic competition, but that was rescinded Monday after the statewide mandate was lifted. Under that order, teams could only condition, doing so in cohorts while wearing masks and social distancing.

Mountain View High athletic director and football coach Shelley Smith, who was part of the ad hoc committee that proposed the three-season plan, last week called the stay-at-home-order “the next hurdle to clear” on the road to playing sports again. Its removal means that teams in SCVAL Season 1 – cross-country, girls golf, girls tennis and swimming and diving – should be able to start practicing Monday, as scheduled, for a season set to start Feb 15.

“I’ve told our coaches to get ready,” Smith said Thursday. “We have to get our kids ready and registered, making sure they get their physicals in time.”

Talking tiers

The decision to place these four sports in Season 1 had a lot to do with the probability of them being allowed to compete next month, according to Smith. Under the state’s public health guidelines for playing sports amid the pandemic, the more severe tier a county is in, the fewer high-risk athletic activities its residents can partake in. Santa Clara County is in the most restrictive “widespread” (aka purple) tier, under which cross-country, golf, swimming and tennis are permitted – as is track and field, part of Season 3.

Season 2 – slated to begin practices March 1 and competition March 15 – comprises  badminton, competitive cheer, field hockey, football, girls volleyball, gymnastics and soccer. Of those sports, field hockey has the best shot of playing because it is in the “substantial” (red) tier category. The rest of the Season 2 sports are allowed to play in the “moderate” (orange) tier – except for cheer, which can only compete in the “minimal” (yellow) tier.

Season 3 sports – slated to start practicing April 5 and competing April 19 – include baseball, basketball, boys golf, boys tennis, boys volleyball, lacrosse, softball, track, water polo and wrestling. Purple-tier sports golf, tennis and track have the best chance of getting their seasons in, followed by baseball, softball and girls lacrosse (red), then boys lacrosse, boys volleyball and water polo (orange), and finally basketball and wrestling (yellow).

“I’m optimistic for Season 3, other than the yellow sports,” Smith said. “I’m optimistic for Season 2, especially the red sports, but I’m holding my breath that we will be in orange during that time frame – that will be tough to do.”

Praising the move

Metheany applauded the efforts of Smith and the other athletic directors on the ad hoc committee for taking action.

“They thoughtfully saw the (virus) numbers, how they’ve changed, and were worried we’d probably lose sports again – and they didn’t want that to happen, if they could help it,” the commissioner said.

The SCVAL isn’t the only league to pass on the California Interscholastic Federation’s two-season plan – endorsed by the CCS – which was originally slated to start last month but has been delayed indefinitely due to the state’s guidelines. Metheany said the Santa Cruz County Athletic League has approved a similar three-season calendar, and the Peninsula Athletic League was expected to do the same.

“Oregon and Washington went to a truncated sports season already in their states,” Metheany said. “That’s where the ADs got the pattern from.”

The commissioner made it clear, however, that the SCVAL is not abandoning the CCS. While the league won’t be able to participate in any playoffs the section (or state) may have this year, the SCVAL remains a member.

“We’re not separating from CCS; we’re unilaterally doing our own sports seasons, which we’re allowed to do,” Metheany said. “We’re still going to pay our fees, and they’ll still support and guide us if we need something.”

For updates on the SCVAL schedule, visit scval.com.

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