By Nathan Mollat
Daily Journal Staff
SAN MATEO - The plan that was adopted by the California Community College Athletic Association last week kept, for now, fall and spring sports in the same time frame.
The winter sports of men’s and women’s basketball? Those were moved to the spring of 2021.
“One silver lining (is), for the first time in 40 years, I’ll actually get a holiday season. I’ve never had one because I was either playing or coaching,” said Michelle Warner, College of San Mateo women’s basketball coach, who wrapped up her 20th season with the Bulldogs this past winter. “My Christmas tournament might have to turn into an Easter tournament.”
The rationale behind the move was the CCCAA is trying to avoid having practices and games during the winter months, when many experts believe there might be a reoccurrence of COVID-19.
Like all other sports during the 2020-21 athletic year, both men’s and women’s basketball schedules will be trimmed to 75% of a full schedule — a schedule that was already in place, but will now have to be revised.
“My schedule is usually done by the first of April,” Warner said, adding that games are scheduled around certain dates on the calendar — such as school vacation time, holidays and important academic dates.
“I have everything planned out so it works well with our (school) schedule.”
In Warner’s case, she also has to contend with rearranging the preseason Tom Martinez Invitational Tournament, which she and the school have hosted for the last 20 years. It usually includes five other teams from throughout the state, both Southern and Northern California. With the CCCAA looking to limit travel to limit exposure to the coronavirus, Warner may have to scramble to fill out the tournament.
“The tournament I’ve hosted for  years — what are we going to do with that?” Warner asked. “Obviously, we want to do it in safe manner.”
If nothing else, Warner is hoping that moving the season to the spring gives her team, and the other teams in the state, more time to prepare for the season. It would also enable her to get more into the scouting of high school players. Because the college and high school seasons overlap, college coaches don’t have many opportunities to see high school players in person.
“We always say our players need more fundamental work. Well, they’ll get a lot of that,” Warner said. “The kids are going stir crazy. They just want to be with their teammates.”
There is a common misperception that once the basketball season is over, the players and coaches all go their separate ways. While that may be the case at the high school level, college is a different game. Warner said she will work with her team three days a week during the spring, which bumps up to four days during the summer.
“We’re trying to find ways to do live workouts. That’s kind of kicking off next week,” Warner said. “In the fall, hopefully we can at least get in the gym in some kind of manner.”
Another silver lining with a spring season is that the gyms, especially at CSM, will be less affected. With construction of new athletic facilities still ongoing at Cañada College, the Colts’ basketball teams have used the gyms at CSM for practices and games. Coupled with the CSM volleyball team, there were five teams looking for gym time as volleyball season wound down and basketball season ramped up.
“Now, just volleyball has (gym use in) the fall, so we don’t have any scheduling conflicts,” Warner said.
While this plan has one last hurdle to clear — July 17 when the CCCAA board meets one final time to check to see where the state is regarding COVID-19 — it’s not the first time, Warner said, that it has been suggested to move basketball to the spring.
“What’s funny is … I never thought about it until a few years ago when they put in (new) eligibility rules,” Warner said.
She said because basketball was the only sport that overlapped semesters of school, players were in danger of being declared ineligible at the end of the calendar year and would thus be out for the remainder of the season, essentially losing a year of eligibility. It was floated to move basketball to the spring to avoid the overlapping semesters, which would allow athletes to complete their season before eligibility became a concern.
While new rules have been put in place to allow athletes to regain their eligibility, Warner said there was a lot of opinion about the proposal.