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Frustration over the lack of guidance for the return of Long Island high school sports

Garden City quarterback Luke Schmitt passes against MacArthur

Garden City quarterback Luke Schmitt passes against MacArthur during the Nassau Conference II football championship game at Shuart Stadium on Nov. 23, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Long Island high school sports officials are frustrated at the lack of guidance regarding the fall sports season after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that schools could open in the fall.

High school sports has been at a standstill since mid-March when the spring season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, a New York State coronavirus sports task force announced it was delaying the start of the fall season from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21.

Cuomo did not address high school sports in Friday's announcement that schools can open because of the low infection rates across the state.

“Since he gave the green light to go back to school, why can’t our coaches start practicing with our players on August 24?” said Tom Combs, the executive director for Section XI, which governs Suffolk County high school athletics. “We are disappointed that it wasn’t addressed. We were hoping to finally give coaches and players some good news, but we can’t.”

Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII, which oversees Nassau County high school athletics, shared Combs' disappointment.

“I listened to the conference call and I was very disappointed he didn’t address high school sports,” he said. “I’m ready for the announcement that we’re ready to move forward with sports. And when the governor didn’t say anything in his news conference it just left us in a holding pattern. I’m just crushed for our athletic directors, coaches and student-athletes. Our hands are tied. We have to wait for his go-ahead.”

Robert Zayas, the executive director of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association, said no final decision has been made about the return of sports.

"I try to look at things optimistically, from that point of view," Zayas said. "Schools reopening is a really good thing and I'm encouraged by that announcement. We have to continue to be patient because we are definitely headed in the right direction for our sports."

Combs said there is quite a bit of frustration as high school sports waits for protocols and guidelines to be put in place.

“We still don’t have a clear plan for sports as we’re waiting for direction from the governor,” he said. “We have a start date to begin practice Sept. 21, but why wait? Players and coaches want to get started and it’s been proven it can be done with the proper restrictions in place. Long Island has enjoyed recreation sports all summer with limited issues as they follow all of the government guidelines. We could do light training, skill development with certified coaches and practicing with proper procedures in small group instruction.”

“We still can’t do anything and that’s ridiculous,” Combs said. “All the youth leagues are playing, but schools can’t. I don’t get it.”

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