By: Luke Curtis
As the sports world shuttered to a close as COVID-19 loomed over America, fans and players alike have taken to social media voicing their endearment to the games they love. Do not be afraid, sports fans, soon another year will come. The sports world will once again be filled with jeers, boos, screams, and adrenaline. Crushing home runs, thrilling touchdowns, impossible goals, clutch three-pointers, and impressive hat tricks will rule the rinks, fields, courts, and diamonds of teams. However, on a more local and regional scale, the shouts at swim meets, excitement at tennis rallies, and aerobic sprints at track and field events at high schools across the state of California, and America will not occur. The 2020 Spring season will forever be silenced because of a wretched virus.
Within the past 4 weeks, the CIF Southern Section regional playoff landscape has changed dramatically. Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement to keep all California schools closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year effectively signaled closure on the possibility of holding the CIF playoffs that were only weeks away, with potential brackets of eight Division 1 teams and sixteen Division 2 teams in the playoffs resulting in zero competing schools.
For the staff of CIF Southern Section, this pandemic has affected them in profound ways. As they normally work around the clock to create the safest and most competitive playoff seasons possible, the team continually came together to save the season when it was on the line prior to the governor’s order.
For CIF Southern Section administration, they have been navigating uncharted waters as this pandemic has, “…created a new reality. What we would normally be doing at this point in the school year and, specifically, in the spring is not happening. Add to that the current uncertainty of the future and it just grinds everything to a halt. There are many things we do daily that do not involve the actual playing of contests. So, we are working ourselves in those functions and still providing service to our membership as they (naturally) still have many questions,” Assistant Commissioner Thom Simmons said.
As the state and Southern California continue to reel from COVID-19, the team hopes that a silver lining is possible in the midst of all of this. The CIF Southern Section administration hopes that a sense of gratitude from parents, teachers, coaches, and student-athletes can be found across Southern California like no other once CIF resumes as expected in full swing in the Fall of 2020. As the CIF playoff system is flawless and very practical, it is not difficult to background the considerable effort of the mechanics of the CIF playoff as the competition and teams take center stage.
As the Commissioner of Athletics, Rob Wigod truly understands that within the midst of all the action; “…high school sports might have been taken for granted by some people because it was always there and always expected to be there. Now that it is temporarily gone, I truly hope that people will be more appreciative of the incredible work done by student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, principals, officials, media, and yes, the staff of the CIF Southern Section, to make all of this happen. I hope they realize what we do, and more importantly, who we do it for,” Wigod said.
As a whole organization, the CIF Southern Section staff continually thinks about, “…our student-athletes all day and every day due to how much this situation has affected them and how much they have invested to be able to participate in their high school’s athletic programs,” Wigod said.
On a more local note, with the official (in retrospect) closure of Irvine Unified School District on March 13, the competitive spirit of Trojans has been put on hold as the 2020 Spring season and CIF put on the brakes suddenly. Especially for those in Spring sports, this time period has been especially disappointing. With several sports already halfway through their season by the time Coronavirus started creeping into the national spotlight, a strong CIF run was a viable possibility.
“The absence of CIF and the second half of my junior lacrosse season definitely took a toll on me. This year, our team consisted of very few returning varsity players, so our team was basically a new team. In the beginning, we had some trouble building our team chemistry, but along the way we continued to improve upon it. I’ve learned to never take any game for granted, because you never know if it’ll be your last. Especially since I will be a senior next year, I want to cherish every minute I get on the courts or the field,” junior lacrosse captain Mya Wang said.
Even though CIF did not occur as desired, it has opened doors for athletes to continue to push themselves to greater heights for future endeavors. Junior and track and field runner Soraya Azizy sees this as an opportunity to “…keep training and working hard to continue in order for my senior year. It’s sad to see all the senior friends go and miss a chance to say a final goodbye, but hopefully will see them again in the future being just as successful as they have been in the past.”
Athletes in other seasons can empathize with the misfortune of athletes who can’t display their talents that they have refined through a mark of dedication found in the countless weeks and hours of practice. Junior Natalia Tobon on girls tennis sees this as the two tennis teams practice together to hone the other team’s skills.
“[The] potential of these tennis players are very bright and they always do well in tournaments. We train with them in preseason and it makes me sad that they won’t be able to demonstrate their talent and dedication to the game at CIF matches this year. On behalf of the student body, we have a sense of tremendous pride in our athletes and cherish all their accomplishments,”Tobon said,
In the middle of all the chaos of COVID-19, the closure of CIF and team activities tailored for the second half of the season and CIF has given both CIF Southern Section administration and student-athletes some clarity on the ability to adapt and thrive within hostile situations.
Even though CIF is canceled, “it’s important to stay positive. Things don’t always go our way, even when we have ideal conditions. Keeping an open mind and maintaining the team dynamic is one way that we can all support each other,” Tobon said.
With the road to recovery ahead, sports will continue to be a beacon of hope and entertainment, as teamwork and resilience continues to highlight humanity at its best.