After a long week, New York State Public High School Athletic Association officials say they are still “full steam ahead” on beginning practice for the fall season on Sept. 21.
Chris Watson, NYSPHSAA director of communications, said on Friday that state officers and staff had a very positive meeting with the state’s 11 section executive directors, but cautioned that there is still “a lot of work to do.”
The NYSPHSAA is working on a document that will provide guidance to its member schools to detail what is needed to start on time. That document is expected on or before Friday.
“This meeting wasn’t a decision-making meeting,” Watson said. “It was the first chance to get everyone together to talk. Everyone had a chance to review the guidance.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 24 that lower-risk interscholastic sports may begin practice and playing on Sept. 21. However, practice will be prohibited outside of the school’s region or continuous regions or counties until Oct. 19.
Fall lower-risk sports include tennis, soccer, cross country, field hockey and swimming. Higher risk Fall sports – football and volleyball – may begin practice on Sept. 21 but cannot play until a later date or Dec. 31.
The NYSPHSAA had previously announced the Sept. 21 start date for fall sports, after postponing it from Aug. 24.
At that time, Marlboro football coach Brian Beck was happy to have a date for his team to work toward.
However, higher-risk sports are limited to individual or group practices with no-to low-contact training.
“It’s been a very strange offseason and very long,” Newburgh football coach Bill Bianco said. “The dates keep getting bumped. While I understand the safety concerns, you have to put yourself in the kids’ shoes. While I understand erring on the side of caution, these kids were waiting since March for Aug. 24.”
After Cuomo approved the start of sports, the Council of School Superintendents on Wednesday called for Cuomo to reverse his decision to allow high school sports saying it could “jeopardize successful resumption of in-person learning for students”.
Thursday, Cuomo declined to reverse course.
“We made a state determination that would allow certain high school sports to commence and we put out guidance and deadlines on that,” Cuomo said on a conference call. “That does not mean that high school sports must commence. It means they can commence. Can, not must. It’s up to the individual school districts to determine if they want to go ahead with a sports program.”
Watson said NYSPHSAA officials were going to work on the document through the weekend and the association’s COVID-19 Task Force was scheduled to meet on Monday.
“I don’t envy the decision makers,” Bianco said. “It’s not an easy decision. I just wish they’d make a decision either way and live with it.”