NORTH COUNTY — On Jan. 26, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted the regional stay-at-home orders, which has provided an opportunity for a few high school sports to return to action following the CIF Central Section’s guidelines.

CIF has continued to update its guidelines as the pandemic has continued and currently allows for cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, and track and field to take place while a county is still in the purple tier. North County high schools have begun scheduling contests for these sports and are expected to start playing on or around Feb. 15. CIF rules still mandate student-athletes must have ten days of practice in a given sport before a competition can occur. 

While the return on some sports brings some hope of normalcy, those wishing to see some of the more popular team sports like football, soccer and basketball should not hold their breath. 

The return of sports in the purple tier leaves the door open just a crack for all sports to return this school year; in reality, everything would have to operate flawlessly to do so, and even then, it might only be for a few games. 

Should the county make it into the red tier, baseball, softball, and outdoor cheerleading will return. If SLO County reaches the orange tier, local high schools could start scheduling athletic competitions for football, soccer, water polo, and indoor volleyball.

Fans of indoor hoops, indoor cheerleading, and wrestling will have the longest to wait as those sports cannot return until the county reaches the yellow tier. 

Currently, the purple tier indicates that the virus is widespread within the county and that there are more than seven cases per 100,000 residents, or more than 8 percent of the test results reported positive over a seven day period. 

The red tier indicates the “substantial” spread of the virus, orange indicates “moderate,” and the yellow tier indicates “minimal.” 

Because the Ocean and Mountain leagues contain teams in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barabara County, it is also important to note that while both counties are in the same tier, athletic contests between schools in both can occur. 

Atascadero High School (AHS) Athletic Director Sam DeRose announced at the Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees meeting last Tuesday night that the District has received over 400 athletic clearance packets even though no athletic competitions have been held this academic year. To allow for multiple sport athletes to maneuver this quickly changing landscape, AHS has implemented some changes to help.

As the county moves tiers and new sports become available, student-athletes will switch to a different sport without penalty. Switching sports would require ten days away from the team (changing cohorts) or provide a negative COVID-19 test.

The first sporting event in the North County in 2021 will take place this Friday as Atascadero High School welcomes Templeton High School into Memorial Stadium for a cross-country dual.

The meet will start at 3 p.m., and the athletes will run a course through AHS, finishing on the track. 

At the time, AHS is limiting spectator attendance to the immediate family members of the athletes competing. In accordance with the Central Coast Athletic Association, AHS will not allow visiting spectators at this time and will revisit the issue in March after the initial month of athletic events. 

Swim will return on Feb. 27 when Atascadero makes the trip to the Municipal pool in Paso Robles to take on the Bearcats.

AHS will stagger the return of sports sharing a facility. Girls Golf is expected to return on Mar. 8, while Boys Golf will return on Apr. 12. 

Girls tennis aims for Mar. 2 while the boys are looking at Mid April. 

The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press have reached out to Templeton and Paso Robles Athletics for more information but have not yet received a response. 

To learn more about the current tier status of the county, visit emergencyslo.org/en/currentrestrictions.aspx

Getting through this together, Atascadero