COVID crisis report due out Friday

By the end of the month, there should be some fall sports being played in New York State.

On the start date of Sept. 21, “low-risk” fall sports such as soccer, cross country, tennis, field hockey and swimming and “high-risk” fall sports such as football and volleyball can begin practicing.

Within two weeks, the “low-risk” sports will begin competition, “high-risk” sports are still prohibited from competing.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association COVID-19 Task Force met again Monday for the fifth time to further discuss state guidance surrounding interscholastic athletics.

Part of those discussions were about the creation of a comprehensive document that will hopefully answer questions and help guide schools through playing athletics amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The document is expected to be released to schools Friday.

The NYSPHSAA officers also voted to delay the start of the winter season from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30. The extra two weeks will give the fall season more time to be completed.

In addition, to the delay, the NYSPHSAA revised the amount of practices required by fall programs prior to competition being played. “Low-risk” sports are required to hold 10 practices while football is required to hold 12. Football is still prohibited from competing at this time.

Later Monday evening, NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas met with media over Zoom, where he clarified some recent points of confusion.

WHAT WILL BE IN THIS GUIDANCE LETTER

On Friday, the NYSPHSAA plans on sending out a comprehensive return to sports document, that sits at about 50 pages, to its member schools.

“It has been my goal to provide a document to our member schools to help alleviate some of the stress associated with the challenges, obstacles and difficulties of playing sports this fall,” Zayas said. “Obviously there are many different variables and many different factors that school districts need to be aware of to address the COVID crisis.”

Some of what the document will address will be officials, what a school district should be aware of when traveling, what a school district should be aware of when hosting another school, face covering requirements, screening requirements, transportation and hydration.

As Zayas had mentioned, there will be many variables when it comes to operating interscholastic sports, if coaches have questions throughout the season, he suggest they reach out to their athletic director, section executive director or Zayas himself.

HOW MANY POSITIVE CASES UNTIL A TEAM SHUTS DOWN

In the event that a team experiences a positive case of the coronavirus, Zayas said the decision to shut down for however long amount of time will not be up to the NYSPHSAA. That decision will be made by the school district, local department of health or state department of health.

ZAYAS MESSAGE TO STUDENT ATHLETES

“We’ve been given authorization to start interscholastic athletics this fall, and it’s up to the student-athletes in the state to be leaders within their school, leaders in their community and to follow all of the safety protocols for social distancing and wearing masks,” Zayas said. “If we’re going to finish this season, it’s going to contingent on them listening and abiding by all of the guidance that is being provided.”

WHEN WILL FOOTBALL BE PLAYED

Zayas had no definitive answer because it’s not up to the NYSPHSAA. The decision for high-risk fall sports to be played is up to the state.

“If anything changes, that decision and that determination will be made by state officials,” Zayas said. “We do not have the authority to supersede any decisions made by state officials.”

Football can begin practicing Sept. 21.

It is possible that the low-risk sports will play their seasons in the fall while high-risk sports are unable to compete. While Zayas says the decision to move the football season to the spring could be made by individual sections, there may come a point where the NYSPHSAA votes to move the sport to the spring 2021.

HOW LONG WILL THE FALL SEASON LAST

With state and regional championships canceled, the completion of the fall season will be determined by the sections. However, the fall season cannot last longer than 15 weeks. This clock begins Sept. 21.

It is possible that the fall season can begin but end abruptly if the state decides it is no longer safe. In that instance, the NYSPHSAA officers will vote on if they will pick the season back up again in the spring, or when it’s safe to do so.

“If the fall sports season starts and soccer, field hockey, cross country get 10-to-15 practices in and have a couple of competitions and then unfortunately, because of a spike or because of guidance provided by state officials the season must be suspended or postponed, then it will be at the discretion of those officers to determine if the season had concluded or not,” Zayas said of the hypothetical scenario.

“Now if we played seven weeks and soccer teams had played 12 games and field hockey teams had played 13 or 14 games, then I think we would be able to determine that the season would have concluded and then we would have to start making decisions of when the winter season would begin, again, at the discretion of state officials.”

This applies to football and volleyball as well, even if they do not get games played in the fall.

HOW MUCH OF IT FALLS ON THE SECTION

Like we saw last week in Section 8 (Long Island), the individual sections within the NYSPHSAA have the power to dictate whether they participate in sports this fall.

“Each section has the autonomy and authority to decide on interscholastic athletics that is most appropriate to them,” Zayas said. “That same situation and stance goes for every district in the state. There is no requirement to host interscholastic athletics this fall, and every section has the autonomy and authority to decide what’s best for the student athletes that they work on behalf of.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Sports Writer

Beat writer for Section 3 high school football, Frontier League boys and girls basketball, Frontier League baseball and Frontier League softball.

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