Section II pushes back start date for winter sports to Dec. 14

Grant Baker of Stillwater, left, and Luciano D'Ambro of Mechanicville go after a loose ball in game matching Wasaren League rivals last season.

Grant Baker of Stillwater, left, and Luciano D'Ambro of Mechanicville go after a loose ball in game matching Wasaren League rivals last season.

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, High School Sports, Sports

The winter high school athletic season in Section II will not be starting until the middle of December for some sports, while other sports continue to await their fate, according to a press release Friday from the Section II Executive Committee.

The winter start date has been moved from Nov. 30 to Dec. 14 for the sports classified as “low” risk and “moderate” risk by the New York State Department of Health, making what was already a shorter than normal season a bit shorter.

Sports in the state DOH’s “high” risk classification also have a Dec. 14 start date, pending approval from the state DOH for competition. If that approval does not come beforehand, the official start date will be pushed to Jan. 4, still pending approval to compete.

“Coaches are asking me every day, ‘Where are we now?,'” Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said. “I’m telling them to be patient. The ‘high’ risk sports are out of our hands. It’s a sit and wait game.”

Several months back, the start date for the Section II fall athletic season was also pushed back before getting underway.

“We were hoping to not have this situation again,” Boynton said, before adding. “We had a head up it might happen.”

Friday’s Section II Executive Committee date change announcement comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in New York following what had been a steady decline in recent months.

On Thursday, Averill Park High School announced that it was moving all of its classes to a virtual format and the remainder of its fall sports season would be canceled due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“The Section 2 Executive Committee, with input from NYSDOH, NYSED, NYSPHSAA, School Administrators, Athletic Directors, Sport Coordinators and Section 2 Sport Officials, has made the decision to begin our Winter Sport season on December 14th, 2020 in accordance with the Governor’s & NYSDOH approvals,” the press release reads. “The High Risk sports will not be given approval to start until NYSDOH approves them for competition.”

“The decision is not surprising. As athletic directors of the Foothills Council we met on Thursday and anticipated this decision,” said Foothills Council president and Amsterdam athletic director Steve Nolan. “We have been meeting on a regular basis and are putting together plans for all of our sports. Our plan is to support NYSPHSAA and develop a plan for our league so that when we do get the official ‘go ahead’ we are prepared and our coaches and athletes are set.”

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association on Monday confirmed that “low” and “moderate” risk winter sports are permitted to be played after consultation with the state DOH.

“Low” and “moderate” risk winter sports include bowling, gymnastics, indoor track and field, Nordic and Alpine skiing, and boys’ swimming and diving.

“I think we’ll be able to get everything in,” Boynton said of those sports. “I don’t think [the Dec. 14 start] it will impact the number of games. It’s not like football where you play once a week.”

“High” risk winter sports include basketball, cheerleading, ice hockey, boys’ volleyball and wrestling.

“We are still keeping our fingers crossed for the ‘high’ risk sports,” Boynton said. “My feeling is they will be moved to the January date.”

“Our thinking with the ‘high’ risk winter sports is that if we can play, no matter when, it will be a plus,” said Shaker athletic director and Executive Committee 2nd vice president Matt Stein. “Patience and optimism is our message.”

Earlier this week Amsterdam girls’ basketball coach Eric Duemler and several other Section II basketball coaches began a push-to-play social media campaign aimed at state authorities as their sports’ status remains in limbo. Prior to the fall athletic season, the state DOH did not give its approval for “high” risk sports, including football and girls’ and boys’ volleyball.

“We want our voices heard,” Duemler said of the Twitter, Facebook and email campaign that sprang to life Wednesday night. “If other states can do it safely, why can’t we?”

Though Boynton has not participated in the push-to-play campaign, he said he is in support of it.

“I think basketball can work. If you have them wear a mask and have no spectators, I think it’s manageable,” Boynton said. “If they tell us we can do it, we’ll make it safe to do it.”

Duemler said he and his group, which includes Shenendehowa girls’ coach Joe Murphy and Schalmont girls’ coach Jeff Van Hoesen, has reached out to their peers locally as well as in Syracuse, Rochester and New York City.

“In the first 12 hours we got 80 shares on Facebook,” Duemler said.

The Section II Executive Committee said the Section II winter 2020-21 season will begin Dec. 14 and run through Feb. 28.

The winter season, according to the Executive Committee, will have a focus on regular season play, primarily with league competition. Sectional competition will only take place if the NYSPHSAA offers state championships.

“The section’s goal through all of this is to be able to provide a safe opportunity to participate for all of our sport offerings,” Section II president Joe Sapienza in the release.

The Executive Committee press release further reads: “It is our hope and goal that Winter sports will be able to complete a good portion, if not all, the maximum allowable contests. Should there be interruptions or a need to shut down, the Section will address those circumstances, at that time. With the Fall 2 Season running from March 1st through April 30th, and Spring Sports running from May 1st through June 30th, it is likely that winter sports if postponed will not have additional opportunities.”

Each school district in Section II will have the option as to their level of participation in the upcoming winter season.

“We understand that for a variety of reasons some school districts may opt out of our Winter Sport offerings,” Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp said in the release “In those cases, we respect and support the individual district decision.”

The Section II fall athletic season wraps up next week with Suburban Council championship competitions in soccer, field hockey, girls’ swimming and cross country.

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