In a normal spring sports season, only Section II championship teams and elite individual-sport athletes are able to compete in June.
This spring could be different, with an emphasis on the “could.”
Monday’s cancellation of both the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Section II spring sports championship events due to the COVID-19 crisis has created a potential opportunity for Section II athletes at all levels to play through the first three weeks of June since there would be no elimination-based tournaments. While those championship tournaments were canceled Monday, the option to play some regular-season games remains on the table — for now — for Section II programs, if it’s deemed possible for area teams to resume their seasons that were halted in mid-March before any competitions were held.
“Is it viable? Probably, but it’s not probable,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said. “We’re trying to get something for the older kids, the seniors. Get them a couple of games if the opportunity presents itself, but I’m not confident it will.”
A normal spring sports season culminates with those state championship events in early June. Teams, though, are allowed to compete for up to 15 weeks.
“The spring season can last 15 weeks from the start of the practice date, and that’s a state education department regulation,” NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said Monday in a conference call with reporters.
Spring practice officially began March 9 and continued for only a handful of days before schools began to close down and social distancing protocols were put in place in response to the coronavirus. Thus, the 15-week spring season runs through June 20, and student-athletes could — again, that word is critical — compete up to that date if teams are allowed to re-start activity.
“That would be my interpretation,” Zayas said.
Of course, so much would have to happen before that could occur, beginning with the opening of schools that are closed until at least May 15 by state order.
“My hope is we give these seniors something,” Saratoga Central Catholic baseball coach and athletic director Phonsey Lambert said. “We understand it’s a world pandemic, and health and safety comes first, but it’s so hard.”
Zayas said if and when spring sports resume, he is recommending practice requirements that call for 10 practices for baseball and six practices for all of the other sports before any competition takes place be restarted. That means that practices teams conducted in March would not count toward meeting that requirement.
Should the spring season resume, some districts will most likely opt not to play. Emma Willard has already canceled all spring extracurricular activities.
“There are those who would want to play,” Lambert said. “Some, probably not.”
Schenectady High School athletic director Steve Boynton said the Suburban Council athletic directors will discuss possible spring sports options via a conference call Friday at their weekly meeting.
“There have already been discussions about how we can play games,” Boynton said. “We’ll meet and go over Plan A and Plan B and so on. At this time, nothing is firm, but we want to be ready to go. We just need the green light from the government, the superintendents and the boards of education.”
Boynton said if that happens, he agrees with Zayas’ recommended practice schedule for student-athletes as they prepare for competition.
“The safety of our student-athletes is the No. 1 concern,” Boynton said.
Section VIII and Section XI, which consist of Long Island schools, canceled their spring athletic seasons last week.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that New York will have a decision on schools for the rest of the academic year by the end of the week.