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By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


As the high schools of the ABC Unified School District have already started, the main common theme continues to be apparent for the athletic directors, which is the transportation of athletes to road events. Although there are no athletic events until December, at the earliest, and students will be doing online schooling for now, schools don’t have to worry about budgeting for transportation.

But with the area ABCUSD high schools competing in as many as 17 sports from early March to possibly late June, plus competitive cheer being active during that time, Gahr High athletic director Greg Marshall wasn’t alone in expressing his concerns about getting the athletes to the games once he saw the new 2020-2021 athletic calendar the CIF-Southern Section put out on July 20.

“My first reaction was how are we going to get all the busses for all these trips at one time,” Marshall said. “Because right now, even with the regular schedule, there are some days that we have to charter out a bus, or busses aren’t available. And now with three [high] schools all playing double the sports almost…I don’t know how it’s going to happen.”

To alleviate some of the transportation issues, Marshall added that the athletic personnel thought about not playing all levels or maybe the lower levels playing strictly the San Gabriel Valley League schedules.

“There are a lot of things we need to take into consideration,” Marshall continued. “It’s not just that [some sports are] playing later [in the season]. But there are a lot of other things that are happening. It’s going to be tough.”

Marshall recently was talking with Gerardo Perez and Rey Sanchez, the varsity baseball and softball coaches respectively, and the three were discussing the possibility of the lower levels playing only on Saturdays with the parent’s driving their sons or daughters to the games. He went on to say that there are a “100 different scenarios to try to figure this thing out”.

“I know what we can’t do,” Marshall said. “ We can’t go in and play all the games and do all the stuff we normally do because the funding won’t be there and the [ABC Unified School] district’s going to have to come through and the district is going to be low on their budget. It’s just complicated.”

Marshall’s second concern was going to be the fundraising that all the sports do and if the school can afford to play a certain sport or two. He added that the fundraising goes towards the improvements of the facilities.

“All that money makes it so we can function and do as much as we do,” Marshall said. “Once the COVID-19 [began], we weren’t able to raise any money, and the kids aren’t going to raise money. They’re not going to go through their parents and say, ‘hey, we need to do some fundraising’ when there’s no activity or participation in sight. It’s going to be tight.”

Marshall is also the school’s head football coach and will be entering his 18th season once the season, hopefully, kicks off in January. He said that football-wise, the delay in everything is not that big of a deal.

“If everything goes well, we will have enough time to have our kids get ready,” he said. “But I have to say, I was thinking about only playing nine games instead of ten this year because we haven’t had the full year of conditioning and weight training. We had to drop Mayfair because there’s no Week Zero. So, I have to figure out if we’re going to fill our bye.”

The original schedule had the Gladiators playing four straight road games, then a home game before taking a week off. Upon returning from its bye week, Gahr would begin SGVL action at Downey High. He said that because the league is tough, his team might need that week off to recover anyway before the Downey game. Marshall said a nine-game schedule with that week off might be good just to save on the cost of transportation and paying the officials and to help balance the budget.

Staying with the football theme, which may also be the same for other sports, is the topic of some players leaving Gahr for various reasons, one of which is the parents not wanting their son or daughter to play once athletics resume. Marshall still doesn’t have a grasp on some of his better players not returning.

“Whose parents are going to let their kids play,” he asked. “You don’t know. I know there’s already been some movement of kids because of situations. We did a call-out to all the coaches on what kids aren’t coming back and they said, ‘well, take these kids off the list. Their parents aren’t going to let them play’. I get it. There’s a lot of inventory to do when we go back. If I had a full squad, I definitely would have played 10 [games].”

Unlike most high schools Gahr currently doesn’t have anyone who coaches two sports in the same season. In fact, Marshall is seeking someone to coach boys and girls tennis as the former boys head coach Dave Thompson retired due to COVID-19 and former girls head coach Colleen Phong went back to school or sought employment elsewhere.  Because the CIF-SS has compacted it’s 2020-2021 calendar into just a fall season and a winter season, both boys and girls tennis will be played in the spring.

“Ideally, you want the same coach because the girls and the boys work together and practice at the same facility,” Marshall said. “Now, you almost have to have two [head coaches]. We have a couple of people in mind, but we’re still so far away I didn’t want to move too soon.”

One area that should not be a problem at Gahr, especially in the late winter months heading into the spring will be the use of its gymnasium, which has three full-size courts. Marshall said he recently told his coaches they were spoiled because the last practice for badminton, basketball, volleyball or wrestling can start at 4:00 or 5:00 whereas a lot of schools begin their last practice at 6:00 or 7:00.

“I’m not too worried about that because I do have three floors and we’ve been fortunate because our kids don’t really have to practice that late,” he said. “But maybe this year they do. Our guys work really well together and actually, I don’t even schedule them the gym. They get together and work on it. Then if there’s any issues, they tell me. But most of the time they figure it out so they could maximize their time.”

As far as the feedback from the athletes, coaches and other personnel, Marshall says it has been mixed. Some coaches are not too crazy about coming back too soon. But the longtime athletic director insists that athletics need to come back to Gahr. Other coaches have been asking why they can’t come back right now while more have said they can wait. For the coaches that don’t want to come back, Marshall says he respects their decisions and knows that they will come back at some point.

“They’re not pushing the envelope,” he continued. “When the county says we’re going to come back under new circumstances…some high schools are a little earlier than others. That’s their deal. We’re going strictly by the county health recommendations.”

Marshall also said that most of his football players haven’t been too vocal when it comes to returning back to school to practice, condition or lift weights. In fact, he admits the players have found ways to find their own weights. Others decided to get together at various locations to throw the football around.

“For the kids, they’re resilient and they’re fine,” Marshall said. “They just want to know when. I don’t even think they care [about the situation]. Now that they know it’s December, January…now that’s all they want to know; that they’re going to be able to play. Not knowing, I think, was the thing that was really hard on them.”

For the league, the six athletic directors have been working for the past month on scheduling league events, according to Marshall, and making sure they maximize the necessary practice times and games that everyone needs. He also said the district athletic directors have also been meeting about the criteria on how to come back and what it’s going to look like when they come back.


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