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New York State issues guidelines for return of high school sports

Guidelines by New York's COVID Task Force suggest

Guidelines by New York's COVID Task Force suggest masks be worn in soccer. Credit: James Escher

High school athletes in soccer and field hockey will be expected to wear masks during competition in the fall sports season, just one of the suggested requirements for interscholastic sports’ return during the COVID-19 pandemic outlined in an extensive pamphlet of guidance issued Friday night by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

The 49-page document offers an assortment of general guidelines for all fall sports to return, including specific instruction for each fall sport. It was drafted by the NYSPHSAA’s COVID Task Force, a collection of officials from across the state.

It calls for athletes to wear face coverings at all times “unless unable to tolerate face covering for physical activity.” It also calls for expanded benches so social distancing can be practiced and only two spectators per athlete to be admitted to sporting events. Hugs, high fives, handshakes and fist bumps are prohibited.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said last week that low-risk sports — he named soccer, swimming, field hockey, cross country and tennis — may return to practice and play on Sept. 21. Football, volleyball and cheerleading have been deemed by the state as high-risk sports that may begin practice with limitations on size of groups and amount of contact, but are not yet cleared for competition; the NYSPHSAA document is sparse on instruction for those sports.

Section VIII (Nassau) will not play sports in the fall and instead will play three compressed seasons from January to June in 2021; Section XI still plans to have fall sports and follow state guidelines.

Schools will be responsible for administering temperature checks and health questions daily and for cleaning and disinfecting playing and dressing areas, frequently touched surfaces and balls. They also will provide modes for travel with state guidelines for social distancing and be expected to bring their own medical supplies to road contests.

Athletes will be expected to bring their own water bottles, not share equipment or clothing and shower at home after participation. They are to wash and disinfect their clothing and equipment daily.

Coaches should wear masks at all times and maintain six feet of distance on their sidelines and benches and are to give clear instruction on how to follow these guidelines.

Officials are asked to arrive dressed to officiate, wear masks and are charged only with handling the game and not enforcing measures for the pandemic. They also are advised to keep a distance from players in an altercation.

Among the specific guidelines for certain sports:

  • Tennis players are to have their own balls to serve and it is advised that balls regularly be cleaned and disinfected.
  • In soccer, the use of the dropped ball has been replaced with an indirect kick, goalkeepers are prohibited from spitting on their gloves and times have been inserted into play for mask breaks and hydration.
  • In cross country, staggered starts are to be used and it is suggested that courses be widened to prevent athletes from coming into contact with one another.

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