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High school athletics still seek answers from New York State

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas speaks to the

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas speaks to the attendees at the First Annual Best Practice Series symposium held at the NYU Winthrop Research and Academic Center in Mineola on January 23, 2019. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The hopes of the high school athletics community were that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo might share some guidance about the fall sports season when he spoke about plans for the re-opening of schools at his Monday news conference. That hope went unrealized as Cuomo more broadly described the formulas the state will use at the start of August to determine if a school district can bring students back.

The written guidance issued by the state’s Department of Health late Monday offered little as well, saying only “interscholastic sports are not permitted at the time of publication of this guidance, and additional information on athletic activities is forthcoming.”

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said, however, that there is a strong chance that some answers will come on Wednesday in the form of guidance from the state’s Department of Education. He added that the NYSPHSAA’s COVID-19 task force will meet Thursday morning and discuss that guidance, among other things.

“It would have been nice to have a little bit more on athletics today,” Zayas said in a Monday telephone interview. “We’re getting to the point where, in order for schools to benefit, we need to begin implementing one or another of our contingency plans. We are ready for a variety of scenarios.”

Zayas has said that six weeks would be optimal for instituting return-to-athletics protocols. Team workouts for the fall season at public schools are scheduled for Aug. 24.

State athletics administrators seriously have contemplated as many as six different models to use, depending on the instructions they get from the Department of Education.

“I think we’re prepared, but I don’t feel good about anything taking place right now,” Zayas said. “The realities are that at some point, students won’t have the same participation experience that they always have. That disappoints me . . . But we have to act with a mind to keep the school environments healthy.”

Cuomo communicated something similar in his news conference when he said “we’re not going to use our children as a litmus test” by not re-opening schools with strict health and safety measures and protocols.

Several states — some that would begin their fall sports season before New York — already have announced their plans.

New Jersey, for example, is delaying the start of fall sports and compressing the season. It has moved the start of practice back approximately one month — to mid-September — and will play a 6-7 week season before holding some sort of postseason that concludes by Nov. 22; there are no state championship tournaments

New Mexico has suspended football and boys and girls soccer from its fall sports schedules.

”I know that athletics is supposed to teach us to deal with adversity, but it’s tough when this affects so many people,” Zayas said. “I’m just hoping the impact is small.”

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