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Hope springs eternal for high school fall sports season

Hope springs eternal for high school fall sports season

Getting prepared, however, is difficult right now
Hope springs eternal for high school fall sports season
While the spring sports seem in jeopardy because COVID-19, some coaches believe the fall sports season will start on time.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

While the future of the spring high school sports season remains uncertain because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Section II coaches and administrators are generally optimistic that, come this fall, practices and games will be conducted without issue.

Fall sport athletes, though, are already feeling the impact of the current holding pattern brought on by the recent closure of schools and community athletic facilities throughout New York, and a directive to cease all group sports activities.

“It’s impacting kids because they can’t get to the gym. They can’t get to weightlifting facilities,” state football coordinator and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk head coach Gary VanDerzee said. “It’s putting you backwards.”

But, at least at this point, the fall-sport athletes have something to anticipate. Spring-sport athlete finds themselves in a much tougher spot.

“From everything I’ve heard and watched, I would be surprised if it [coronavirus pandemic] affects the fall [sports season start date],” Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said. “The spring season, on the other hand, is in tough shape. It’s not looking good. 

“I,” Boynton said, “think it’s gone.”

While VanDerzee waits to find out if he’ll be assisting his school’s outdoor track and field team sometime this spring, he’s a bit more certain he’ll be back on the field coaching his varsity football team when the 2020 season kicks off in August.

“I haven’t hit the panic button yet, but it is in the back of my mind,” VanDerzee said of the possibility of the coronavirus affecting the fall season. “It is a concern.”

Guilderland varsity field hockey coach and ADK field hockey club co-founder Jen Sykes has been pondering the future, too.

“The Sykes are a field hockey family, and we live for the fall season,” said Sykes, who, along with her husband and UAlbany field hockey coach Phil Sykes, oversees the ADK program. “We will get back out on the field again, but right now is the time for the medical professionals. We need to give them the time they need to control this.”

While that process continues, the social-distancing and stay-at-home protocols continue for student-athletes who are itching to play now and for those who are trying to prepare to compete in the fall of the next academic year.

“It puts us behind the 8 ball,” Boynton said. “Spring is a prime time not only for football players, but for all fall athletes. You gain most of your strength in the offseason, while in the season, you maintain. A lot of our kids don’t have weight equipment in their garage or cellar. They’re playing video games to kill time.”

Holy Trinity was among several Section II varsity football programs that competed in a winter indoor 7-on-7 league, and was again going to play in a spring outdoor 7-on-7 league that was to begin a five-week run this Sunday, but has been postponed.

“A lot of schools take advantage of it to get their work in and get some momentum going for the summer,” Holy Trinity coach John Barber said.

Holy Trinity is among the Section II teams that are using the offseason to break in a new starting quarterback.

“This offseason is especially important for us with a new quarterback and new receivers coming in,” Barber said. “RPI has a 7-on-7 event May 31st, and that’s something I’m shooting for.”

Sykes said several indoor and outdoor field hockey tournaments that her ADK players were slated to compete in have been postponed or canceled.

“We probably had more things planned for April and May than ever before. Tons of events,” Sykes said. “Everything came to a halt. Everything is on hold right now.”

Sykes is urging all of the field hockey players she works with to stay diligent, and stay in the game as much as possible.

“There are things you can do at home to stay motivated and stay active,” Sykes said. “There is individual skill work. There are companies that offer online workouts. They can watch pro league games online and learn from them.”

“We’re in contact with our players as much as we can,” Barber said. “It’s up to the kids to do the right things.”

As a physical education teacher at Guilderland, Sykes has been reaching out to more than field hockey players as part of her daily routine.

“Keep moving. Keep busy,” she tells them. “Go out and run. Keep social distance and focus on the now. Deal with it day to day. The virus has brought the fight to our doorstep, and we will get through this.”

“Right now, my concern is for students to stay safe,” VanDerzee said. “Follow the guidelines. Teenagers think they’re invincible, but they have to see the seriousness of what is happening and listen to what people are saying.”

On March 13, Section II schools were informed that all spring scrimmages and games were postponed until April 19. In the following days, schools announced they were closing and calling off all extracurricular activities, including athletic functions. Some of those schools pointed to late April before a possible return.

“I’m hoping the spring sport athletes get their moment in the sun,” said Sykes, whose Guilderland field hockey team did just that last November when it won the program’s first Section II title. “Let’s hope they get that back, and let’s hope we get a fall [season].”

Boynton said spring sport athletes are losing out in many ways, including the chance to be seen running, jumping, hitting a baseball or catching a lacrosse ball by college suitors.

“People rely on those scholarships,” Boynton said. “Someone might have seen them as a junior, but people grow a lot in a year. It’s a lost opportunity.”

All is not lost, though, at least not yet.

“Hopefully by May, we’ll have a better grasp of where things stand,” VanDerzee said.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association on Monday canceled the winter championships for basketball, ice hockey and bowling that had been postponed on March 12. Ten Section II basketball teams, two hockey teams and four bowling teams and a host of individual bowlers had their winter season cut short.

Also Monday, NYSPHSAA officials announced that April 27 will serve as a deadline for the organization to make a determination on if it is feasible to sponsor spring state championships this school year.

COVID-19 has had a major effect on sports around world.

The IOC announced Tuesday that this year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, set for July 24-Aug. 9, were being postponed until next year. It was announced Thursday that the Indianapolis 500 was being moved from May 24 to Aug. 23. Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, set for Thursday, is now slated for mid-May at the earliest. The NBA and NHL regular seasons have been halted. The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball and hockey tournaments were canceled, as well as the NCAA spring sports seasons. The Masters, scheduled for April 9-12, has been postponed. The Boston Marathon, scheduled for April 20, is now Sept. 14.

Reach Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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