Area volleyball coaches are waiting for the ball to be in their court when it comes the 2020-21 season.
New York State announced that volleyball is a high-risk sport and the start of the season was pushed back to March 2021 on Wednesday. Volleyball has been lumped into the “Fall Sports II” category along with football and competitive cheerleading. Section 10 schools compete in the fall season while Frontier League schools play in the winter.
Longtime coaches like Angie Robbins of Carthage said the league is in a holding pattern on whether they’ll be able to start on Nov. 30 when winter sports are scheduled to begin.
“I think we’re all in limbo right now,” said Robbins, who would be going into her 31st season leading the Comets’ program. “Section 3 is supposed to let us know what’s going on.”
The coaches have been in contact with winter coordinator Amy Simmons of Chittenango, who has yet to report the status of winter volleyball. Area coaches like Robin Boomhower of Watertown are trying to figure out what to say to team members and parents.
“It kind of puts me and my athletes in a pickle,” said Boomhower, who would be entering her 14th season leading the Cyclones. “I have my players and their parents asking me what’s going on this season.”
The National Federation of State High School Associations deems high-risk sports to be “sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants.”
There has been confusion on what makes volleyball a high-risk as many coaches are still trying to figure out why the sport is in that category. Even a longtime coach like Boomhower is still looking for answers on that issue. All the coaches agreed that the situation has been fluid and there’s been a lack of consistency on what guidelines to follow.
“No one’s really told me why (volleyball is a high-risk sport).” Boomhower said. “I think we’re all looking for clarity with everything.”
Beaver River coach Gene Sundberg said that volleyball and cheerleading being held inside is likely one of the main reasons that it’s been called high risk. However, he said volleyball at least has some safeguards that allow for some form of distancing.
“We have six people and they won’t be six feet apart, but we do have a physical barrier (in the net),” said Sundberg. “It’s not like basketball where people are pushing and bumping up against each other.”
Some coaches worry about the logistics of trying to get all of their players to school for practices and games under the hybrid learning model that limits how many students attend in person each day.
“I’m wondering if we’re going to have parents transport them or will we have to do a bus run,” Robbins said.
The dream scenario for Boomhower would be for the season to start normally after Thanksgiving break. However, all volleyball in the state could be pushed into the spring and that would cause conflicts with overlapping seasons. Boomhower is the Watertown girls track and field coach and would have likely have to choose between track and volleyball. Sundberg said that he could be missing many players to sports like track and softball.
“We’ve got a good young core, but we may not have many left (if the seasons overlap),” Sundberg said.