With the start of the fall 2020-2021 CUSD school year almost three weeks ago, in pre-COVID times, we would also have seen the launch of the Coronado High School (CHS) Fall sports season.
Team photos would have been taken, programs printed, rosters and team captains announced. Looking at the “what-would-have-been” calendar this weekend, both of Coronado’s pools would have been roiling with the America’s Finest City men’s water polo tournament and Islander Football would be hitting the turf against the Kearny Komets on Friday evening. Parents and students would be filling the stands in the gym, on the pool deck, and in the stadium. Our Islander Cheerleaders would get the fans going with my favorite cheer:
“Islanders in the front, let me hear you grunt, uh! Islanders in the back, show us where it’s at, right here! Islanders in the stands, stand up and clap your hands!”
The topsy-turvy-ness of the start of the 2020 sports season extends beyond bleachers and fields of play. This would have been the beginning of my 11th year of walking on to the football field with my camera, looking forward to seeing Dave Axelson on the sidelines for the first home game of the season. We would catch up a bit, chat about our summer, and the upcoming year in local athletics. He might rib me a bit about my extensive lack of understanding of the game of football. During the final season game against Mission Bay in 2013, kicker/quarterback Robby Weissenfels (CHS 2014) kicked a 43-yard field goal, but a flag was thrown against the Islanders for having too few players on the field. I was incredulous. I turned to Axelson and suggested that too few players was already a disadvantage, so we shouldn’t be penalized twice. It was Axelson’s turn to look incredulous, and he laughed and laughed.
I’ll miss seeing Axelson at our sports events. He procured my first CIF badge for me, in 2010, and was one of my biggest advocates, and I am grateful for his support over the last 10 years. I’ll miss his column, his vast knowledge of all things sports, and his describing of games that helped his readers feel like they were in the front row. I’ll miss his style, and I know I’ll have his voice in my head often while I’m writing.
CHS athletics, under the guidance of Athletic Director Robin Nixon, is looking to get the balls rolling again on our empty fields of play. Thus, with Axelson’s retirement, to add to the tumult of 2020, I’ll be, at least temporarily, playing the dual roles of sports photographer and sports writer.
I reached out to Nixon earlier this week, and she, with the help of a couple of our long-time coaches, walked me through what the season, if everything holds, will look like for the remainder of the school year. Currently, several teams are are staying in shape by participating in conditioning camps, via the Islander Sports Foundation. The camps, which have limited attendance allowance, are operated on a first-come, first-served basis, and must adhere to established social distance guidelines. No more than 14 players may be in any one cohort. With most teams that would be one or two groups, and with football, it’s 5 groups of up to 14 players. Though there is no contact at this time, athletes are able to condition and hone their skills, but no scrimmages or games are being played.
This will, per CIF guidelines, change in mid-December. Beginning on Dec. 12, football, cheer, both girls and boys water polo, and both girls and boys volleyball teams will begin full-contact practices, in preparation for games which will begin in mid to late December. Volleyball and water polo teams will begin contests against rival teams on Dec. 19. Cross country will follow on the Dec. 26, with football starting scrimmage play Dec. 30, and full contests beginning Jan. 8. Playoffs for the above sports will begin in March. Also according to CIF, sideline cheer will begin in conjunction with football, although those details are still to be determined. Homecoming will be played on Feb. 19, though there is no word yet on a possible parade or dance.
Also at issue is fan attendance. At this point, which and how many spectators will be permitted to attend games is still very much unknown. Nixon noted that in the event that fans are unable to attend in-person games, for whatever reason, the Islander Sports Foundation (ISF), in conjunction with Coronado Youth Soccer, will be offering a live-stream subscription of home (and some away) games held on both the field and in the gym.
Nixon noted that, as 2020 has shown, things work out best when we can be creative and flexible. Thus, since both girls and boys water polo and volleyball have different seasons, this year, a little creativity will be required. With multiple teams requiring the same space, coaches and players understand the need for flexibility, and are willing to rise to the occasion to ensure that both players and sports enthusiasts are able to enjoy live sports at CHS.