While still awaiting guidance and direction from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State’s Education Department on how schools could operate this fall, the state Public High School Athletic Association Covid-19 Task Force held two meetings in June to discuss multiple scenarios for sports.
At its June 30 meeting, the 24-member NYSPHSAA Task Force reviewed six potential return-to-school proposals, including a full return, a combination of in-person and virtual learning, a full distance learning model and a regional differences model. A full return to athletic participation, potential adjustments of seasons and/or the condensing of seasons are all on the table.
“Right now, so much is contingent upon guidance from the governor’s office and the state education department,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said in a phone interview July 2. “We are trying to take a proactive approach while we wait and see what the guidance is going to be. We hope to know by mid-July how schools are going to be able to open and how athletics will fit in.”
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet July 13 and could offer some level of guidance. Zayas urges everyone not to move on rumors and rely only on information from the NYSPHSAA or his own social media platforms.
Zayas estimated schools would need at least six weeks to prepare for the 2020-21 academic year. “First and foremost is the safety of students,” he said. “We’re working as diligently as we can now so we’ll be ready to move forward with a plan for athletics once we know more.”
Fall sports are scheduled to begin Aug. 24. However, if there is any level of virtual learning in place, and based on the severity of social distancing restrictions, there is a chance higher risk sports, such as football, soccer and wrestling could be played in the spring of 2021.
“Season Adjustment ‘A,’ as we’re calling it, has three traditional seasons with low-risk sports taking place in the fall, moderate risk sports in the winter and then end the school year with high-risk sports,” Zayas said.
Under that scenario, the fall season would tentatively run from Aug. 24 through Dec. 5 and include baseball, softball, girls lacrosse, girls tennis, track and field, swimming and golf. The winter season would tentatively run from Nov. 16 through March 20 and feature basketball and volleyball, while spring sports would be conducted March 15 through June 12 with football, wrestling, soccer, boys lacrosse, boys tennis, field hockey and cross-country.
“The definition of worst-case scenario has been redefined,” Zayas said. “We don’t want to move sports around unless we have to, but that’s certainly better than telling someone their season is cancelled.”
Season Adjustment “B” has sports being played in five compressed seasons. In this outline, none of the major sports (football, basketball, wrestling, soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse) would happen in the fall.
Other items on the radar of the task force include fan attendance, practice requirements, procedures if a student-athlete or coach becomes sick, screening for athletes and coaches, invitational tournaments and extending the spring season into July.