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Sections VIII, XI struggle to schedule spring sports seasons

High school spring sports, including baseball, are in

High school spring sports, including baseball, are in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: NEWSDAY/DAVID L. POKRESS

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's announcement Friday that schools will remain closed until April 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic  will also push back the potential start of the spring high school sports season.

“The announcement from the Governor’s office will also impact spring sports, which will remain suspended until that time,” said Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII, which governs Nassau schools. “As we get closer to that date we will decide whether or not to start practice or wait until the week of spring recess. Once again no practice of any kind is permitted during this time.”

Pizzarelli said this has been the most difficult challenge during his 40 years in education.

“If we do go back to school we are committed to having an abbreviated spring season for our student athletes,” he said. “I am totally committed to that end. Once we get the all clear from the health department and the government, we’ll do everything we can to get in a short season. I feel so terrible for our senior spring athletes. The senior year in sports is so much fun. I really believe sports are co-curricular and go hand in hand with academics. This is so sad.”

Pizzarelli and Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, which governs Suffolk schools, have spoken to each other daily about the possibility of a shortened spring season and the extension of the schedule to accommodate post-season options.

"We met with our spring sports chair people to discuss contingency plans for the possibility of a spring season and put together a four-step plan pending the week we come back," Combs said. "And we’ve had constant communication with our neighbors in Nassau for a post-season schedule and potential Long Island championships. We're hoping to give the kids as much opportunity as possible. Nothing is out of the question, but it is all speculation. We will abide by whatever the governor says. This is all about health and safety above all. We are working to ensure that if there is a chance to play a shortened season, no matter how slight, we’ll be ready. We’re waiting for a green light from the governor.”

Combs said he has the cooperation of the Town of Brookhaven, which will offer its fields and facilities to play multiple games at one site to ease the concerns over the shortage of officials.

"There’s so many factors to try and play so many games in a short period of time and we’re hurting for officials," Combs said. "To play so many games in a short period of time is not possible, unless they're at the same site, and even that would be challenging. Right now, we’re on a rotation where different leagues play on different days and we wouldn't have that luxury with a condensed schedule. We’re all hoping we’re still talking about schedules and getting back out there at some point.”    

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