Orange County Moving into Purple Tier and its Impact on Student Athletes


Krisha Konchadi

Playing team-oriented sports while being physically distanced can create some disconnect between team players. “I think the biggest thing would be playing against each other as a team and going to the games and having that adrenaline rush and experiencing the program and playing in a competitive environment, as opposed to just getting better,” junior varsity volleyball player and sophomore Sarika Menon said.

Athletes across Irvine Unified schools are facing an array of changes and challenges to athletic practices and training as a result of Orange County’s recent transition to the purple tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 blueprint.

According to the CIF state office’s statement, “In today’s COVID-19 press briefing, Gov. Newsom and Dr. Mark Ghaly from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) disclosed that the release of updated youth sports guidance has been postponed. Therefore, the current guidance remains in effect, and CIF competitions are not allowed until new guidance is provided.”

Along with the uncertainty regarding CIF competitions, all sports are under new restrictions in compliance with CIF guidelines. In the purple tier, only cross country, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field can maintain play, while the rest of athletics on campus must resume with heavily-modified practices.

Volleyball, a very team oriented sport, was especially affected by the curfew earlier this year, as well as the new lockdown restrictions put in place. Players must now practice inside or outside, without equipment, partner passing and drills. Boys’ volleyball would also be the only sport to miss two consecutive seasons if volleyball season is cancelled. 

“It’s pretty frustrating, because we were just able to play with each other, and we thought we were getting somewhere, and our coaches have told us to have a lot of hope,” junior varsity volleyball player and sophomore Sarika Menon said. “I think because we’re used to being so close to each other, and even when we would score a point we’d all huddle up and tell each other ‘good job,’ and we can’t even have those kind of interactions with each other, it can be a little bit demotivating to come to practice just to work out with each other and not really talk.”

Likewise in baseball, restrictions heavily impact how players practice: players must distance 6 feet apart and cannot throw balls back and forth. Players can no longer bat and pick up balls normally.

“We are still hopeful,” varsity baseball player and junior Josh Liu said. “We practice as if we are going to play. If we stay ready, we won’t have to get ready, and if there’s no season, then that’s that. But it’s better to be prepared. 

In a typical school year, sports commissioners work together to promote athletics and focus on attendance and spirit. However, the state of the pandemic impacted these roles.

“This year is a bit different because of COVID restrictions, so now our job is more about communication between the coaches and ASB and just finding ways to promote athletes to have COVID-friendly practices,” girls’ athletics commissioner and junior Celine Aoki said.

According to Aoki, CIF competitions in any form this school year are not guaranteed to happen. Though spring sports are still on track to participate in typical school versus school games outside of CIF, this status is still susceptible to change depending on county restrictions.

“I feel like health is definitely a priority,” Aoki said. “And as much as I am committed to sports myself and would love to see season this year and everything, I think health is definitely way more important. So I think they are doing the right thing, if this is how the cases are increasing.”