Players competing in the high school girls tennis team state championships at the National Tennis Center in Queens on Nov. 5 will need to show proof of at least one vaccination shot, per the New York City COVID-19 requirements.
"They need, in accordance with New York City [policies], to have proof of one vaccination dose to compete," NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said.
The girls tennis team championships will be contested indoors and are the only fall state championship facing this issue. All the other sports championships are being held upstate or on Long Island, where there are no such requirements for indoor events. The girls tennis singles and doubles championships will be in Schenectady.
"Everyone’s upset about the requirements, but there’s nothing we can do," said Pat Pizzarelli, executive director of Section VIII, the governing body for public school sports in Nassau County. "Those are the city’s rules."
Only eight schools in the state — two from Long Island — will advance to the tennis center. The Long Island small school girls tennis championship between Section XI (Suffolk) titlist Bayport-Blue Point and Section VIII champ Friends Academy will be played Nov. 1 with the winner advancing to play in a state semifinal in Queens. The large school championship will be Nov. 3.
The NYSPHSAA issued girls tennis championship protocols on Sept. 9, Zayas said.
"They were told already if they make it that far this is what’s necessary to compete," said Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, the governing body for public school sports in Suffolk County. "So far I haven’t heard anything from an athletic director or parent saying [someone] will not vaccinate their daughter at this time."
The city requirement for spectators at events at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center — proof of one vaccination shot for those 12-and-over to enter the building — won’t be in play at the National Tennis Center because spectators are not being permitted per U.S. Tennis Association instruction. Zayas said the NYSPHSAA has not yet engaged in dialogue about requirements for spectators at the indoor track and field championships.
"I don't want to speak for the USTA, but we've been working with them and trying to comply with their restrictions," Zayas said.
Among the winter sports, the policies could impact the indoor track and field championships at Staten Island’s Ocean Breeze Track & Field Athletic Complex if they are still in place.
The NYSPHSAA plans its championship events long in advance. That includes booking venues, hotels, travel arrangements, game officials and a myriad of other details to put on the events. Zayas said there are no plans to move either city-based event, though he’d received one recent inquiry from an athletic director about changing the venue for the girls team tennis championships.
One major issue facing the NYSPHSAA and all the schools that compete in it are how transmission rates may change as the months get colder. Higher rates could force restrictions in other parts of the state besides New York City. Zayas said that in such a case, a state championship event could only be moved with enough notice. Hypothetically, Zayas used the boys basketball tournament at Glens Falls Civic Center as an example.
"This is purely hypothetical: What if the Glens Falls Civic Center, because of transmission rates in Warren County, comes to us a week before and says ‘I'm sorry but we got to become a vaccination-only facility because of the transmission rate?’ " he said. "Then we're going to try to move a boys state basketball championship tournament with 20 teams participating over four or five days? That's not logistically possible."
"Is there some concern about [rates] going up? Absolutely," Pizzarelli said. "But right now the numbers are falling and more and more young people are getting vaccinated.
Asked if he would advise administrators to tell student-athletes to get vaccinated because of the possibilities, Zayas said he would not go that far.
"I wouldn't say that," he said. "I would say that they need to make sure that their athletes are aware of the restrictions that could be in place in venues where we’re hosting the state championship . . . because whatever the restrictions are is what we're going to have to abide by."
"We’re all hoping [rates] keep falling and restrictions get lifted, but if I was an athletic director at a school or coaching track and I had some outstanding kids, I would say ‘Hey you’re potentially a state kid and you should think about getting vaccinated,’ " Pizzarelli said. "It’s their choice, but they should know about the repercussions."