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Whitney High athletics prepare to play shorter schedules than usual due to new calendar


By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter • September 10, 2020


Of the four high schools in the ABC Unified School District, Whitney High is the smallest one in terms of enrollment, and it houses the smallest gymnasium. That could pose a major challenge as far as the usage for some of its sports because of the 2020-2021 athletic calendar put together by the CIF-Southern Section, which was released nearly two months ago.

Whitney athletic director Jeff Day said he didn’t expect anything to come back until December at the earliest and thought athletics might even come back as late as January. He also admitted having a fall and a spring season instead of the usual fall, winter and spring was kind of a surprise.

“There were talks about what it might look like, so there weren’t any big surprises,” Day said. “I know [the CIF-SS] made their decisions in the best interest of everyone and there might be some schools, some districts, some leagues, some sports that may be affected more than others. But just like everything since March, there are a lot of unknowns.

“Obviously, having certain sports doubled up at the same time is what jumped out for me,” he continued. “Golf and tennis…they put at the same time in the busy season. Those are the ones that were like, ‘wow, there are a lack of facilities’. And both those sports that they put together are predominately coached by the same coaches. So, there are some challenges, but everyone has challenges and things they have to deal with and figure out.”

Day went on to say that allowing everyone to still play full schedules was a surprise and with everything going on, he thought they might have shorter seasons spread out over the three seasons instead of two and everyone plays 10 or 20 percent fewer games outside of league competition.

Artesia High, Cerritos High and Gahr High all have gymnasiums that have at least three full-size courts. Whitney has just one gym, which means Day has his hands full trying to make sure all his indoor teams have ample practices and will have to be creative.

“Those schools all have three full courts at their disposal; all we have is obviously one,” Day said. “With the new school district schedule that we have, our athletic period can start as early as 1:00 now. So, one positive is if the kids are available, we can start an hour earlier for practices. We have the gym until 5:30.”

Day added that they would have to split the volleyball programs in half but couldn’t comment on how much time there would be for practice, only saying it would be up to the county and the district as far as when they allow the athletes to come back and what special rules will be put in place and what Whitney will have to do to be in compliance.

“The volleyball teams will have to split that time in half,” Day said. “The fun will be in the spring because we will have three boys basketball teams, two or three girls basketball teams and 50 badminton players all at the same time.”

He indicated that in the spring, the basketball and badminton teams would have to rotate their practices to where one of the sports would always be outside practicing each day and it would be equally spread amongst all those teams.

“If badminton has a home match, I’m going to try to put those home matches on days basketball has away games so we’re not losing practice times,” Day said. “And if basketball has a league game, I’m going to try to have badminton play an away game. We’ll have to deal with it.”

Another possibility to maximize practice time would be if one of the teams could have access to the gymnasium in the morning before school begins at 8:00.

On the topic of transportation, Whitney is no different than the other district schools and especially in the “new” spring season, in which more sports will be play, some creative planning will have to take place.

“If we had to go by today’s guidelines, I don’t know what we would do,” Day said. “But we’re not going to have any travel until the middle or the end of December, and maybe that might be one trip per sport. So that’s three months away [and] a lot of things could change. I don’t know what’s going to happen at that point. I don’t know how many kids are allowed on the bus.”

Day said he would be meeting with school administration soon to ‘tackle certain situations’ as it pertains to the transportation. He believes some of the questions or suggestions that could arise would be if the school is going to encourage more student athletes to drive themselves to the games or if the school is going to encourage more parents to drive their son or daughter to the games.

On the coaching side of things, and unlike other schools, Whitney does not have coaches who coach more than one sport. In fact, Day said there has been an increase in the teachers who also coach. Marlene Jollensten, who was the assistant to the former girls volleyball head coach, Ole Nervik, was hired to be a math teacher and is now the new girls volleyball head coach.

“Right now, all our sports have coaches,” Day said. “We’re waiting to see if coaches are going to be allowed to be paid if coaching two teams in the same season. If we’re not allowed to pay a coach, [for example], to coach boys and girls tennis at the same time, then I’m going to need to find a new coach. But we haven’t lost any coach because of the current situation at all.”

For the fall season, which will run from December to April, Day doesn’t see any problems coaching-wise.  There are two head coaches for the boys and girls water polo teams, Mark Johnson and Paul McManus. a combined five boys and girls volleyball teams with as many head coaches and two cross country head coaches. Whitney does not field a football or lacrosse team, the other two sports that will participate in the revamped fall season. And because Whitney has never had a football program, Day doesn’t have to worry about the challenges of restructuring the football schedule.

“The second season, I have the same coaches for golf, but I can kind of move that around because there are three of us,” Day said. “I have two tennis coaches that coach the girls in the fall and the boys in the spring. So, tennis is the other one we’ll have to wait and see.”

He added that for tennis, they are looking at friends or colleagues who can possibly help. Other than that, Whitney does not have any crossover coaches.

As far as safety protocols for practicing and what precautions the athletic department is going to take once athletes can return, Day said he and the school have had preliminary meetings with the district but it’s still a fluid situation and they haven’t been given any specifics on what is to talk about.

Day has already been informed that once the athletic season begins, the locker rooms will remain closed for the entire school year, both for physical education and athletics, unless the district changes that decision. That would eliminate the process of cleaning and sanitizing the locker rooms and weight rooms daily.

“We don’t know when we’re going to be back, so we don’t know what the guidelines are going to be,” he said. “Since June when there were talks of coming back, L.A. and Orange County, the rules have changed, the protocols have changed. As far as talking to the coaches about what we’re going to do, no, because we don’t even know when we’re coming back.”

He added that most of the Whitney coaches have already had COVID training from online courses and they’ll have the training completed before they come back to school.

As far as feedback from the coaches or athletes, Day admitted there are some students and families who are hesitant about returning to their respective teams. Some athletes have already decided not to play in the 2020-2021 school year for various reasons, i.e. COVID related or the uncertainty of their respective sport being played.

“They’re taking advantage of lining up for an academic class that’s a sure thing,” Day said. “They don’t want to wait and then in the spring there’s no sports and they could have added another class. We’ve lost some athletes for reasons like that.”

Some of the positives have been the athletes who have been cleared to play and the coaches who have been cleared, in certain sports, have been meeting online and doing workouts. Day said a lot of parents are happy for that because there are a lot of kids who want stuff to do. He also said he knows certain athletes who have been working out on their own.

In closing, Day said he hopes that all the teams get to play but is concerned with a couple of them, especially boys volleyball, traditionally a spring sport which was cut short back in March. Now, with the new calendar, it is being doubled up with girls volleyball in the fall season.

“I want everyone to get to compete,” he said. “I really want boys volleyball to get to compete. But first and foremost, we have to make sure everyone can come back and be safe, from the coaches to the student-athletes.”


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