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Norwalk High Athletics Play the Waiting Game Like Everyone Else, Eager to Come Back




Norwalk High assistant athletic director Jim Webster admitted he “definitely wasn’t optimistic” prior to the CIF-Southern Section’s release of the 2020-2021 athletic calendar on July 20. The reasoning behind that stemmed from the standpoint of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District unable to do anything at that time.

Like the other schools in the Southland, and in addition to the students unable to come back to school towards the end of the 2019-2020 school year, the summer and even last month, especially in Los Angeles County, Norwalk athletes were not able to even do conditioning in small groups on campus.

“I guess the first one was probably hopeful that it is a possibility that we will be playing this year,” Webster said of his initial reaction to the new athletic calendar. “Now, how it will all work out? I don’t think anyone really knows the answer, especially in L.A. County where it’s going to be a little harder to get to that point where we can get back to school and not only that, but to get back to regular contact to be able to play sports.

“At least with that calendar update, it at least gave us something to look forward to and maybe plan for, eventually,” he later said.

Of the initial concerns once the calendar came out, Webster cited the process as one of them. He wondered what the district would make Norwalk do and hard it would be to get the students in daily, bi-weekly or through other means and what the process would be to have students back on campus.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he predicts. “When we decide to start doing it, it’s school first; obviously, it’s going to have to happen. We’re going to have to bring kids in slowly, whether it’s a hybrid or however way we decide to do it eventually. I think we’ll learn from there, and athletics will follow.”

Webster added that the kids are not going to come back on campus just for athletics only, and that the primary goal is to get the kids back in the classroom first. And even if students are still doing online schooling in November and December, he wouldn’t answer, either himself or for anyone else, on the possibility of the fall season student-athletes being able to come on campus in the late afternoon hours for practice or conditioning.

“With Orange County off the Governor’s watch list, and maybe L.A. County will eventually get off the watch list, we’ll learn a big lesson from Orange County in the next month as far as them going back to school, in the classroom on a hybrid basis and see how that goes,” Webster said. “And then hopefully we’re there to follow soon [after that].”

When talking about the Suburban League, Webster believes that the rest of the circuit is in the ‘same boat’ as Norwalk and said that he hasn’t heard anything different from his league colleagues. He added that the league is preparing their schedules across the board and trying to catch up for the ‘new fall and new spring’.

On the topic of transportation, which has been one of the biggest concerns for a lot of schools, Webster talked about having plenty of buses and plenty in the transportation budget before 2008, the time of the last recession. Once the recession hit, Norwalk and the district had to scale back a little bit, but he said it didn’t really inhibit the scheduling too much. More times than not, Norwalk will schedule opponents not too far from its school. He added that last year and the year before, everything was fine on the transportation front and weren’t too many budget limitations.

“Whatever the district decides as far as…okay, at that time, are we able to travel one per seat”, he questioned. “Is it two per seat like we normally do, or is it one every other row? It’s a numbers game and obviously the cost would increase depending on how many people you’re going to allow on the bus, and that’s a huge factor for every sport. Now, if you have football, sometimes you might already take two buses. Well now, you might be taking four or five. Budgeting that is going to be a problem if we’re not at a point where we can travel like we used to.”

With boys and girls volleyball now being grouped into the fall season, it’s going to be an interesting season for first-year head coach Paola Nava, who now replaces Eric Lorn at the helm. Webster believes scheduling practice time for the volleyball programs should not be a problem once November and December arrive.

“Practice-wise, it could be a little helpful,” Webster said. “Obviously, they may not be able to monopolize the gym. They might have to spread out their times, like sixth period to 4:00 and then maybe 4:00-6:00. Now you’re going to have possibly five volleyball teams that need to practice. But since they’re all similar coaches, I think they’ll be able to work it out and maybe go with varsity levels [later in the day].”

Webster said he hasn’t looked at the exact volleyball schedules yet, but obviously if the boys have a home match, then the girls will be on the road.

For tennis, Webster was talking to head coach Edgar Salazar, who coaches the boys and girls, which will share the spring season, and was confident that if there are eight courts, you could probably host two levels. So, if the boys are home and the girls are on the road, you can possibly have the varsity and junior varsity teams play at the same site if you needed to.

Football didn’t have to do much with its schedule as it was able to keep all its non-league opponents. The only change was flip-flopping the first two games. Originally scheduled as its second game of the season, Norwalk’s new season-opener is in its new on-campus stadium against Bell High on Jan. 8 with the next game at Savanna High. After that, the rest of the schedule remains the same, minus the bye week which has been removed.

Speaking of football, the school will usher in new athletic facilities, highlighted by the first-ever on-campus stadium. Because students and staff haven’t been able to come back on campus, the construction has been able to be done much faster than if this was any other year.

“It’s probably been the only positive to the shutdown, is that all the workers…there have been no distractions on our site,” Webster chuckled. “It’s just a worksite that’s moving along. I was very skeptical that we were going to meet that one-year deadline and we’re going to come very close.”

Webster added that the football field will be the first thing that will be done and after that, the remainder of the athletic fields should be completed by the end November or early December, less than two months before the home opener.

“That’s what we’re hearing right now,” he continued. We’re on schedule for end of November, early December. Hopefully, we don’t get late rain. We haven’t had hardly any rain, which also helps. There are always some little things that could increase the timeline. But, right now, it looks like we’re on track.”

Of the feedback Webster has received from different parties, he said that he thinks everyone knows the situation and everyone is ‘definitely eager’ to come back.

“When it’s really gone like it’s been, you really miss it,” he said. “I think sometimes when you’re coaching every day and the sports are year-round and sometimes you get tired and sometimes breaks are needed. But I think everyone would agree that this break has been too long and we’re ready to come back.”

In closing, Webster hopes the new athletic calendar works out, but that everything is going to be ‘really, really tight’, He thinks that if athletics does return in the middle of December, everyone will be happy to make it work.

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