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NYSPHSAA moves football, volleyball to spring

A football helmet lies on the ground while

A football helmet lies on the ground while members of the Floral Park football team practice on Aug. 19, 2015. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association announced Wednesday that the fall sports of football and boys and girls volleyball statewide that are deemed high risk will be postponed until March 1, 2021.

The fall high school sports season for low to moderate risk sports, including girls tennis, girls swimming/diving, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls soccer is set to begin on September 21. The winter sports, which include competitive cheer for Long Island, were to start on November 16, but that date was pushed to November 30 to give the fall season more time.

The traditional spring sports will move from March 15, 2021 to an adjusted start date of April 19, 2021.

“We’ve been saying since Day One that we’re listening to everything that is coming from the executive director’s office at NYSPHSAA so we can make the most informed decision possible,” said Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, which governs Suffolk’s high school sports. “The state is taking football and volleyball, the high-risk sports, out of the equation by moving them into 2021. We have a meeting of all of our athletic directors Thursday morning and this announcement will certainly make our meeting even more interesting. It adds another wrinkle to the discussion.”

Robert Zayas, the executive director of NYSPHSAA, talked about the modified practice requirements and that football and volleyball were still labeled as high-risk sports and limited to practices only.

Combs said the practice, with no sure plan to play, was not very popular.

“We were giving kids the opportunity to get together and practice but no timetable or possibility that they would compete,” Combs said. “That wasn’t very popular at all. This decision allows the different sections to look at options of holding a limited fall season with low risk sports.”

Zayas in a Zoom call late Wednesday night talked about practice with no play.

“We didn’t have a definitive timeline as to when high risk fall sports were going to allowed to play based upon the guidance of the department of health and other state officials,” Zayas said. “Combined with the concerns of the membership, we also had the situation that student athletes were going to start practicing in those high-risk sports without truly understanding when they were going to be able to play in games. Today’s decision gives those student athletes a little bit better of an opportunity to have a quality participation season.”

East Islip football coach Sal J. Ciampi said with all the restrictions and no promise to play games, it just wasn’t fair to the athletes.

“You put in all the work all summer and don’t get to play games and that doesn’t work,” he said. “And now the start date of March 1 won’t work with spring sports starting April 19. You can’t make football players choose between football, baseball and lacrosse. And that overlap in seasons will force kids to make decisions. It’s simply not fair. The unintended consequences will see teams in some schools fold because there’s not enough athletes to go around.”

Zayas added, “Over the course of the past two days, I have hosted seven zoom meetings for nearly 500 athletic directors and I’ve listened to the concerns of those athletic directors,” he said. I’ve listened to them express their questions and concerns about high-risk sports. This decision is being made as a result of listening to our membership and attempting to assist them with the hosting of high-risk fall sports during the school year.”

With Jordan Lauterbach

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