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With news from New York State about the beginning of the so-called ‘high risk’ winter sports virtually nonexistent since the New York State Public High School Association announced on Dec. 11 that all winter sports state championships were cancelled and ‘high risk’ winter sports were indefinitely on pause, other entities across the state are beginning to take matters into their own hands.

Since mid-December, high schools across the state have gone on the guidance that all ‘high risk’ winter sports were postponed indefinitely ‘until authorization is granted’ and now school athletic directors are seeking the state’s approval to begin the delayed winter sports such as basketball, hockey and wrestling.

On Thursday the New York State Athletic Administrators Association sent the following letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, outlining their desire and plan to begin all winter sports immediately:

“As representatives of the over 780 Athletic Administrators in New York State, we implore you to reconsider the decision to forego ‘high-risk’ sports for the Winter and potentially the remainder of the school year to permit play to begin immediately so these athletes can salvage a small season as some end their high school athletic careers. There are no state championships planned. Student-athletes are screened daily. Spectators are not permitted in most cases and if so will be severely limited in numbers. There is no glory other than allowing an athlete to compete against an opponent to ultimate personal victory for self, family, and school. We know that you can appreciate fighting the good fight.

As a professional association, we ask for this with the knowledge that those sports are not only safe to run, but will be overseen by Athletic Administrators that have worked tirelessly to develop protocols to deal with the COVID-19 virus should there be an isolated case. There are many documents authored by groups concerned directly with maintaining a safe environment for students, staff, and the surrounding communities and should be considered as a guide to the opening of a full sports program. We have followed the NFHS, CDC, and DOH guidelines to the letter to begin our limited seasons and now feel confident that after seeing how the rest of the country has celebrated successes, it is time for New York to lead again.

Additionally, you will note that many states have conducted research on the rate of transmission directly correlated with the number of cases and subsequent quarantines causing cessation of contests. In every study there were less than 1% new cases and a much lower percentage resulting in suspensions or cancellations of contests. There is no valid, scientific reason to assume that interscholastic sports are dangerous at any risk level. In fact, those state’s health departments seem to vary on which sports are actually “high-risk” and those that are not. New York, for some reason, has a much different, subjective assessment in place.

Furthermore, surrounding states have seen the necessity of keeping school sports programs operating and have identified mental health and increasing the socio-economic gaps as potential factors in cases of student depression and lower grades while engaged in some form of virtual learning. Student health and growth academically, emotionally, and physically are what is a part of every child’s life and we are the experts that contribute to that growth. The Educational Framework for Athletics, a New York State Education Department document, is the lifeblood of our association and we see the benefits of our programs far beyond the classroom.

Governor, we are the gatekeepers that promote sports in a safe, responsible way that does not expose the school district to litigation. We are cognizant of applying procedures that protect schools from vulnerability to litigation. We are certified by New York State as School District Administrators to maintain these standards and to apply protocols that give children throughout the state the same opportunity to play that every other state has taken advantage of.

The bottom line is that high school and middle school sporting events, controlled by Athletic Administrators are safe and well below the 1% that we saw throughout this unprecedented time.

Thank you for your time and consideration and please know that we can work collaboratively towards a solution.”

The letter was signed by President Brett Banker (the Section 6 president), Executive Director Alan Mallanda and Associate Executive Director James Wright, Ed.D.

This letter also comes on the heels of several New York State legislators also getting involved.

According to information provided by News12 Long Island’s Kevin Maher on Twitter, New York State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (99th NYS Assembly District) has introduced legislation to restart all scholastic sports in New York State. Schmitt held a press conference on Thursday to do so and is rumored to have plenty of support from other assembly members.

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