BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — When the California Interscholastic Federation made the decision to push the start of the high school sports schedule back to December they also confirmed that the sports schedule would feature two seasons versus a typical three.
With two seasons, Kern County schools will see 12 sports in competition for the spring while the four fall sports begin in January, posing obvious challenges for multi-sport athletes.
Garces Memorial senior Elijah Toppila is used to training for three-sports ahead of the high school sports season where he competes in football, soccer and track and field.
Now, he’s not only preparing for an uncertain start to a sports year with football set to begin in January. He’s also preparing to possibly make a decision if he’s unable to balance all three in this condensed sports year.
"Very anxious at first because I know what's gonna happen with my senior year, or if there's going to be high school sports at all. But I've been taking this time to work on a lot, and just ready myself for all conditions," Toppila said.
Soccer player first, Toppila recognizes that track and soccer would be the hardest to balance as they run in the same season, but he also knows he has to think about his future.
"With college coming up, I think it's best to stand out more and to then be okay in three. I think it's better to focus on your best sport," Toppila said.
Even though he wants to do his best in each.
"Help the team as much as possible is my goal, and then try and PR and everything like knew my best," Toppila said.
Up the 99, Kern County's smaller communities face different challenges with multi-sport athletes. Smaller school sizes could mean even smaller roster sizes with athletes not able to compete in all of their sports.
"Definitely going to be small, like, I'm just gonna do a varsity like all of our cities," McFarland senior and multi-sport athlete Shania Perry said.
Perry who plays volleyball, basketball and runs track for the Cougars hopes she’ll still be able to one last time.
"We don't know if we are going to go to college and play at the next level, are playing in college. So being that we're seniors, like our last opportunity or less chance to shine or to feel the greatness we feel while playing the sport," Perry said.
If both athletes are allowed to compete in all three, they know the struggles of balancing their schedules. While North High school athletic director and boys basketball coach A.J. Shearon believes the biggest strain could be on the athletes.
"We're gonna encourage those kids to continue to do that which we will. I'm just worried more about the toll that could take on the kid when they're balancing obviously academics is, as the primary focus, but then also moving to their sport that they might consider their primary sport, but also not wanting to give up what they might consider their secondaries," Shearon said.
There’s a reason students like Toppila and Perry choose to play more than one sport to begin with: competing with their teams.
"Being out there with my teammates and watching them do good, grow throughout the season. It just makes me really emotional," Perry said.
"They're not like normal friendships, they're like a brotherhood when you're with the team," Toppila said. "I miss it for sure."