Berkeley High School (BHS) has been slowly restarting sports that can be contact free since late January, but now the decision has been made to open all athletics at BHS, even if it is not immediately. Contact, non-contact, indoor, and outdoor sports all have a plan to resume practices by the end of this academic year.
Robin Van der Vegt, co-athletic director, explained: “Generally speaking, all sports will have a season this year. But they are greatly revised seasons; usually there’s fall, winter and spring sports. That all got scrapped last July.” Currently there is a plan for all sports to have some sort of season by June. All of the major rules about what sports can open and when are set by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), and then the North Coast Section (NCS), and below that, West Alameda County (WAC). WAC is where BHS works with other schools in the area to set up games with those schools’ sports teams.
“We’ve been trying to offer as much as possible within all of the rules the whole year. And now we actually have official seasons from our governing bodies,” said Van der Vegt. Although it is complicated to have every sports season in the next three months, there is hope that it will work for everyone.
The sports currently in season are track and field, cross country, swimming, tennis, golf, and diving. These sports have already had their tryouts and formed their rosters. Baseball, softball, girl’s lacrosse, and football were added to the sports that could begin on Monday, March 1. There are plans for more sports to start in April. Most teams will only have a six week long season.
Each team is under the guidelines of what is considered a pod. “Whatever the roster is for that team, that’s a pod,” said Van der Vegt. Within that pod they will continue to wear masks and social distance as much as possible, but that is subject to change as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.
At the moment, having games with other teams is extremely complicated. Different schools have different protocols surrounding COVID-19. But for the sports that are already practicing, there are plans to have games against other teams whose schools are a part of WAC.
“Usually we have game schedules laid out for the year for the most part when we enter a year. This year it is more in the moment; we are not able to plan it out as much because we have to follow the guidelines, and the guidelines are changing and we didn’t know what the seasons were,” explained Van der Vegt. There may be opportunities for BHS teams to play schools in adjacent counties, but that has to be decided with each school individually.
Eliza Fosket-Hydes, a senior in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), swims for the varsity swim team at BHS. Normally, the swim team would be practicing in one large coed group, but this year, the teams have been split into boys and girls to make smaller, more safe groups. The swimming teams have been practicing for about a month.
Another constraint on athletics this year is that student athletes can only choose one team sport to participate in. Fosket-Hydes said, “I normally do swimming and biking, but this year I had to choose to do only swimming.” So far, the swim team has only had practices, but meets are being planned. “As long as we can have meets I feel like it’ll still be a good season, so I’m happy about that,” Fosket-Hydes said.
The athletic directors understand students’ desire to get back to their sports as soon and as safely as possible. “Mr. Parker and I, we are co-athletic directors, we’ve been doing everything we can all year to provide opportunities for students to participate in sports,” said Van der Vegt. “We know that it is super important to student athletes and their mental health and motivation. We love to do it and we are athletic directors because we wanted to create as much opportunity for students to be able to play as much as possible.”