The New York State Public High School Athletic Association took the first step Wednesday in determining COVID-19’s impact on the fall sports season.
The COVID-19 Task Force, put together by NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica, convened for the first time to hear reports read by representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, the New York State Education Department and the New York State Health Department. The task force also discussed the results of a survey that was taken by approximately 6,000 coaches, trainers, athletic directors, superintendents, principals and executive directors from around the state.
In a press release sent out early Wednesday afternoon, Harrica said: “From the reports provided, it is clear school district facilities cannot be opened for student participation until Phase 4 is entered. The health and safety of our student-athletes remains our top priority.”
Currently every region of the state with the exception of Long Island and New York City are in Phase 2 of reopening. The north country is expected to begin Phase 3 either Friday or Saturday.
“Today’s meeting was our first step in addressing concerns and examining readily available information related to the COVID-19 crisis,” Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director, said in the press release. “We are all focused on providing student-athletes with the opportunity to participate this fall with guidance from the Department of Health and in accordance with Governor Cuomo’s restrictions.”
Zayas later tweeted the following: “1st @NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force mtg went well. High priority = student participation & safety; Low priority = championship events. Task Force will provide summer guidance for on campus activity & update FAQs Friday. Appreciate Gov’s office, NYSDOH & NYSED providing updates.”
The guidance expected to be released Friday will be the first of any official guidelines issued by the NYSPHSAA.
The survey done provides a look into how coaches, administrators and trainers are feeling about the impact COVID-19 will most likely play on fall sports.
According to the survey, the majority of participants are “somewhat confident” that their school will be opening as scheduled come the fall.
In terms of how a season could logistically operate, the overwhelmingly most important aspect to all those who participated was whether or not students will be returning to in-person learning come the fall. The organizers of the survey expected this result. According to the survey, the least important part of operating the season is fan attendance.
For health and safety, the majority of participants believed student-athlete safety was the most important. They also expressed the importance of student-athlete mental health and their fear of a possible resurgence of the virus in the fall.
As Zayas mentioned in his tweet, player safety and the ability to play a regular season has taken a higher priority over championship events that would require more travel.
At the end of the survey, coaches, trainers, athletic directors, superintendents, principals and executive directors anonymously offered their greatest concern along with additional comments.
A common concern was that social distancing and possible precautions, such as players and coaches being required to wear masks, would be difficult to implement. Athletic trainers also noted how screening players prior to games and the constant sanitation that would be required could also be a challenge.
The COVID-19 task force is expected to meet again at the end of the month.