Tam Athletics adjust to NCS and Marin County health guidelines


(Emily Stull)

By Amelia Sandgren

Commissioner of Athletics Pat Cruickshank for the North Coast Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, which includes jurisdiction over Tamalpais High School sports, released a statement on July 20 to discuss the updated athletic schedule for the 2020-2021 seasons.

According to the new schedule, fall athletics will be pushed back to December 14 with spring sports beginning consecutively after that on February 22, 2021. The postseason will be significantly reduced with regional and state championship tournaments lasting no longer than a week. Student-athletes will now be able to play an outside or club sport during their high school season due to the suspension of CIF bylaws 600-605.

“All of us know the importance of education-based athletics to our student-athletes, schools, and communities. This calendar considers the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of those students that we are so fortunate to serve in our section throughout the state,” Cruickshank said in the official statement.

The new schedule calls for all winter sports to be absorbed into the fall and spring seasons, raising concerns over potential field, pool, and court spacing conflicts.

“There will definitely be field space issues, especially as our enrollment numbers grow and more kids play sports,” varsity football coach Matthew LemMon wrote in an email. “As we crossover sports in March— football and field hockey playoffs, beginning of soccer and lacrosse —field space will be very limited and coaches will have to work together, extra hard, and long hours to ensure appropriate preparation for contests.”

“If there ends up being a freshman girls volleyball team, that could create some issues, but I think they will just have to deal with some later practice times,” Senior and co-captain for the girl’s varsity volleyball team Caitlin Smith said.

The water polo teams will have to not only sort out practice time with each other but also other swim and water polo clubs.

“COVID has created a scarcity of pool time, and I’m sure you’re hearing this from the Seals [Swim Club],” girls varsity water polo coach Paul Hettler said. “We’re competing now with them rather than it being complimentary, in the sense that they interlock a little bit but they help each other, now it’s a little bit more of a competition.”

Athletic Director, Christina Amoroso, said she is working to ensure fair practice times for all teams.

“Each sport and their contests and practices will be looked over to provide an equitable amount of practice times. Some changes that teams may feel that are different from seasons past could be reducing practice times from two hours to 90 minutes,” Amoroso said.

Many teams will have to adjust to later starts to their seasons. Fall sports, usually played in the warm summer months, will now be starting in the beginning of winter.

“I’m a little worried about running out of daylight hours to practice and with no lights on the field. Play can be challenging as it gets darker earlier,” girls varsity field hockey coach Michelle Boutwell wrote in an email. “Also, I am not a fan of playing hockey in the rainy season; when visibility is down, and the turf is slippery we are more prone to accidents. It’ll be a learning curve for all of us, but not insurmountable.”

To accommodate lighting issues, Tam Boosters, one of the primary fundraising sources for Tam Athletics, has been discussing possible solutions.  According to Jennifer McGhie, president of Tam Boosters, they are looking into either renting or purchasing light towers to accommodate evening practices.

Another notable change to the regular season rules was the suspension of CIF bylaws 600-605. Due to the change in season start times, athletes will be allowed to participate in club sports during their high school season. This will likely cause conflicting schedules for students.

“Second semester is always a little bit harder. There’s more work, and I think that it’ll be really tough for a lot of students to balance school and two seasons of sports,” Smith said.

“I’m hoping that a lot of the Tam athletes choose the Tam team because that’s where their friends are and that’s going to serve us best as we go into the season in December,” Hettler said. “They’ll have to organize it so that they can do the regular Tam team and then club if they choose to do that.”

Marin County health guidelines, which went into effect August 12, limit sports cohorts to 15 people and allow students to participate in two cohorts. Indoor practicing, however, is still banned. This has created an issue for teams trying to practice during their preseason.

“Teams should be allowed to practice as long as all protocols are taken to ensure the safety and security of the student-athletes. Covid waiver, coaches tested, temperatures taken, health screenings, etc,” LemMon wrote.

Some schools, where many athletes play for the same club teams outside of school, will have the advantage of playing in the same cohort.

“I know that for MC [Marin Catholic] most if not all their players play for Absolute [Volleyball Club] so they’re already getting a ton of reps. Same with Redwood,” Senior and co-captain for the varsity volleyball team Olivia Smith said. “I think that in order for highschools like us, where not everyone plays club, or not everyone plays for the same club, it would be very beneficial for us to be able to play together, get used to the team, before having to go into MCAL games.”

Coaches have been putting together what they can to compensate for the lack of a preseason.

“I’m not sure what Marin Catholic and Drake and all the other MCAL schools are doing,” Hettler said. “Our level of preparation in the regular season is all the same, but now it’s different based on each school and what each coach has managed to put together.”

Season lengths have also been restricted. Postseason play, which can traditionally last up to a few months, have been limited to a single week. This especially affects Tam, as many Tam teams win titles in the regional or state championship tournaments.

“By the time we get to postseason, we’re a mean, lean, machine. We are tight as a team and everyone is playing at the peak of their season, and since it’s a shorter season I hope we compete in that postseason,” Hettler said.

Despite the possible restrictions and problems that the new schedule will cause, many teams are grateful to be able to participate at all.

“I’m thrilled that at least we have a shot at a season,” Boutwell wrote. “And I’ll take a season whenever we can play.”

“The new schedule will have challenges as it will be an adjustment for every sport,” Amoroso said. “This shift and change will no doubt require our teams to be flexible, understanding, and efficient with the times they do have at the facilities.”