Guidelines Set For High School Sports Return

NYSPHSAA had a #seniorsalute campaign on Twitter in honor of the graduating senior class that had their sports seasons cut short. (Photo courtesy of NYSPHSAA via Twitter)

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) is looking to establish proper procedures for a potential return to sports.

As part of this effort to bring back high school sports, the officers decided in their third COVID-19 task force meeting on July 16 that they would delay the start of fall sports until Sept. 21, waive the seven-day practice rule and cancel fall regional and state championships.

If it is determined that fall sports cannot be played in 2020, then another option on the table is to have fall sports played from March 1 to May 8 of 2021.

In the previous two COVID-19 Task Force meetings, they established guidelines that could help prevent the viruses’ spread if teams host summer workouts and also provided possible pathways for a safe return this high school sports season.

One of the more obvious guidelines agreed upon in the first meeting, which was held on June 10, included the decision to enforce face coverings for all athletes and coaches attending workouts, except when an athlete is actually participating in the event.

Additionally, athletes and coaches are strongly encouraged to not make physical contact of any kind or share workout equipment. If necessary, it is suggested that disinfectant should be available for when each athlete is done using the machine.

It is also suggested that teams should be segmented into small groups at practices, with those groups not becoming mixed at any point during it.

Furthermore, it will be requested of players that they not use locker rooms or stay at the facility for any extended period of time, with 15 minutes before or after each practice being the maximum amount of time allowed.

NYSPHSAA’s decision to create this path for a return of high school sports comes at a time when professional sports are starting up again as well.

MLB and NBA are both expected to return within the next few weeks, with extreme guidelines to minimize potential exposure, such as the latter’s decision to have players stay in a “bubble,” located in Orlando’s Disney World.

The second NYSPHSAA Task Force meeting was held on June 30 and included members of the New York State Department of Health and New York State Education Department. They made it clear that high school sports seasons are still very much up in the air, though, with six different scenarios for a potential return currently under discussion.

The ideal scenario would be the first one,allowing student-athletes to play sports while social distancing. Other scenarios under consideration include having a hybrid of in-person and distance learning, just distance learning, sports being included only in the second half of the school year with hybrid learning, distance learning with sports available in the second half of the year and opening up schools and sports by region based on each one’s circumstance.

High-risk sports might have to wait until the spring possibly, with football, baseball, outdoor track, lacrosse and wrestling being among those in that category.

“If the guidancer stipulates that only low-risk sports can be played in the fall, then we can potentially have a scenario to implement,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said. “If the guidance says no interscholastic athletics can be held in the fall, then we could have a scenario to go ahead and rely upon.”

But until we receive the guidance from the governor’s office and the state education department, we really just have to continue to finalize our scenarios, and our proposals, and be patient.”

As Zayas noted on his own Twitter account, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in one of his press conferences recently that there is still no decision on if schools, in general, will reopen this fall.

A date for a fourth NYSPHSAA COVID-19 task force meeting is yet to be determined, but will certainly be vital to any potential return happening.

Josh Finkelstein
Josh Finkelstein is a reporter with Anton Media Group.

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