Tom Schlappich has now seen the COVID-19 pandemic affect high school sports in two straight seasons.
As the Highland boys’ lacrosse coach, he saw the beginning of the pandemic close schools and shut down the spring season after just a few days of practice. Now, it has caused his first season as the Huskies’ head football coach to be postponed to the spring.
Section 9 Executive Director Greg Ransom announced on Thursday the section will delay interscholastic athletics until the beginning of the winter season on Nov. 30. The fall season will be played in March and April and the spring season will be played in May and June.
The night before, the New York State Athletic Association moved high-risk fall sports, including football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading to a fall season, beginning March 1.
“I’m somewhat relieved because there were no decisions being made that were going to stick,” Schlappich said. “It seemed like everything was getting pushed back. In some ways, it’s somewhat of a relief that there was a plan in place.”
Ransom said the decision was made based on safety of the student athletes and that many Section 9 school districts were conducting classes via remote learning.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Section 9 in conjunction with our school districts will monitor developments and make changes when needed,” Ransom said.
Highland girls’ soccer coach Kathelene Canosa said she was happy that the kids are going to get a chance to play.
“I think the kids need it,” she said. “Outdoor sports are very low-risk. I’m excited that the kids are getting a chance to play.”
The state on Wednesday night announced high-risk sports such as volleyball, football and competitive cheerleading can begin practice on March 1 and postponed the start of spring practice to April 19 to accommodate the Fall 2 season. Despite that, Section 9’s season dates are yet to be determined.
According to Ransom, offseason workouts may begin on Sept. 21 if they follow the rules established by the NYSPHSAA and the guidelines established by the New York State Dept. of Health.
“Now that we got the OK to start some offseason stuff, we’re going to try to get together and recapture that spirit and that drive and intensity and enthusiasm of playing together as a team,” Canosa said.
Schlappich said this year, more than any other year, his players had to take more of the responsibility upon themselves to keep in shape during the long layoff. They’ve been giving them workouts virtually that they can do on their own.
“I think they have come to the understanding that, whether it’s football or soccer or any other sport, there’s nothing stopping them from becoming the best version of ourselves.”
Before the decision was made, Marlboro football coach Brian Beck said in early September that moving to March might be the best thing and told his guys to just wait and see what the decision was going to be.
Both Schlappich and Canosa will coach in the spring as well. Should the plan hold, several of her soccer players will transition over to the softball field. While Section 9’s dates could be different, the NYSPHSAA has postponed the start of the spring to April 19 when it moved football and volleyball to March.
“I’m fine with it because ultimately it’s been hard physically, mentally and socially,” Canosa said. “If one ends on Friday and the other starts on Monday, that’s great.”
Might not be as easy for Schlappich’s players that will transition from football to lacrosse. Both are very physical games that can take a toll.
“When you have athletes that go from one season to the next with no time to heal up or get a little bit of rest it’s a challenge,” Schlappich said. “If you pose that question now to the athletes and coaches, I think we’ll take that. I think we all just want to get some sense of normalcy.”