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Suffolk high school athletes weigh in on state guidelines

Ashley Borriello of Shoreham-Wading River clears the ball

Ashley Borriello of Shoreham-Wading River clears the ball on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Credit: John Munson/John Munson

Suffolk’s high school athletes weighed in on the latest in state guidelines, one of which recommends but does not require the use of facial coverings during sports.

Most athletes seemed unfazed by the announcement that included the use of face masks. And others were against it.

Section XI, which governs Suffolk’s interscholastic sports, is set to follow the guidelines put forth in a 41-page document released late Friday. Practices are set to begin Sept. 21 for fall sports.

Games will be allowed for low-risk sports, named by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as field hockey, tennis, cross country, swimming and soccer. Higher-risk sports can begin with restricted practices and no date set for the start of competition.

Section VIII (Nassau) will not have high school sports in the fall and expects to play three compressed seasons between January and June in 2021.

The NYPHSAA guidelines called on soccer and field hockey players to wear facial coverings “unless unable to tolerate face covering for physical activity” and call for periodically halting play for “mask breaks” and hydration.

Section XI executive director Tom Combs said, “I’m not happy with the recommended-but-not-required mask requirements for players, coaches and officials. The guidelines suggest ‘masks to be used as tolerated,’ and if a player doesn’t feel comfortable wearing a mask, they don’t have to. Why are students mandated to wear masks in school all day and then during sports, it’s not required?”

He added, “I will seek advice from our athletic directors and then recommend what to do to our executive board and athletic council about face masks.’’

Harborfields senior Jenelle Bennardo said wearing a mask during field hockey is not a great situation but that anything is better than not playing.

“It’s not ideal, but obviously I would do anything to play,” she said. “I just want to stay safe and everyone else does, too, so if that’s what they want us to do, then it’s 100% worth it.”

Senior Ashley Borriello is looking forward to her senior season of soccer at Shoreham-Wading River.

“We’d have to get used to wearing a mask in practice before we play games,” she said. “But taking precautions for COVID and actually having a season is most important to me and my teammates and we’d do anything to have a season. If that means wearing a mask, then we’re wearing a mask.”

Borriello said there are a lot of factors involved with the issue of wearing a mask at practice.

“Of course I’d rather not wear it so it’s easier for me to breathe,’’ she said, “but at the same time, we are in a pandemic, so it’s important to stay safe and healthy, and if a mask is what’s going to keep me safe and healthy, I’m going to wear it.”

Senior Briana Grant runs cross country at Ward Melville and said she had deep concerns about wearing a mask.

“I personally think it’s extremely dangerous,” she said. “I can barely breathe when wearing a mask like that all day. So trying to wear it while running a race, when it’s already difficult to try to keep your breathing balanced, is going to be extremely difficult and dangerous. There’s going to be consequences for the runners who decide to wear a mask.”

Communication is paramount to winning in team sports, and wearing a mask will make teamwork much more difficult.

Said Shoreham-Wading River senior soccer player Brooke Langella, “I would not wear a mask because I think communication is a huge part of our success and it’s something we really stress, and with a mask on, that would be too hard.”

 With Laura Amato, Mike Ruiz and Jake Falk

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