When the school spring sports season was officially canceled early last month, New York State Public High School Athletic Association leaders determined that sports would not return in the fall until students were back in the classroom.
The majority of respondents to a survey distributed by the NYSPHSAA agree with that call, according to executive director Robert Zayas, indicating that they are not in favor of having high school sports if there is not in-person schooling.
The survey was sent out to state superintendents, principals, executive directors and some athletic directors and coaches as the NYSPHSAA continues to gather information pertaining to the fall sports season, and roughly 6,000 of them responded.
“The survey closed Sunday,” Zayas said. “We are still cycling through all of the data.”
Zayas said survey responses will be on the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force’s agenda items for review when it meets for the first time Wednesday. Zayas also emphasized that no major decisions or recommendations would be made during the meeting relating to the fall sports season, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
“We need to continue to examine information and be patient,” Zayas said. “There is so much uncertainty, and people are craving any king of certainty. We are not going to be the organization that provides that in the beginning of June.”
Section II executive director Ed Dopp was among those who answered the survey.
“I was in favor, as Section II executive director, to not have high school sports if there is not in-person school based on the following — our past,” Dopp said. “In the spring, we asked our member schools that question, and the overwhelming majority was that if it’s not safe to be in school, it’s not safe to be in sports.”
State schools will need to get the go-ahead from government and health authorities to reopen for in-person instruction in September.
“In three months, we could be in a drastically different situation,” Zayas said. “Things are changing every day. Look at [high school] graduation. The governor on Thursday said no in-person graduation. Sunday, he said there could be up to 150 people with social distancing.”
While the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force sifts through a myriad of questions that need to be answered prior to the opening of the fall sports season, the New York State Education Department recently answered one of them by giving the OK for student-athletes to participate in athletic competitions if they have previously had a health examination in the last two school years and provide a health history.
“This was obviously a concern of many throughout the association, so this helps to address one of many items,” Zayas said. “The concern was that primary care physicians would have a difficult time seeing children for well child check-ups because of the COVID-19 crisis. For those students without a physical the last two years, they will have to find a way to get a physical, which may be easier without the influx of all kids seeking an exam.”
At its initial meeting, the COVID-19 Task Force will discuss among other things sports restart guidelines provided by numerous sources, including the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“A lot of people are concerned with the start of the school year,” Zayas said. “A lot of people are concerned with student-athlete safety.”