When the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's COVID-19 Task Force conducts its first meeting June 10, it will be focusing on some of the questions that need to be answered prior to the opening of the fall sports season in late August.
The New York State Education Department answered one of them earlier this week, giving the OK for student-athletes to participate in practices and competitions if they have previously had a health examination for school attendance in the last two school years and provide a health history.
"I consider this very helpful," Shenendehowa athletic trainer and COVID-19 Task Force member Rick Knizek said. "That came as a suggestion from NFHS [National Federation of State High School Associations]."
With schools state-wide closed down for at least the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus, they are unable to provide health examinations, or physicals, for fall sports candidates.
"There is such a backlog of patients, and that makes it hard for a healthy kid to get a routine examination," Knizek said. "They [NYSED] are trying to eliminate the volume."
In a release provided to school superintendents and principals, Kathleen R. DeCataldo, assistant commissioner of the NYSED's Office of Student Support Services, wrote in part that schools can "permit student athletes to participate in the fall 2020 sports season if they have previously had a health examination for school attendance in the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 school years and provide a health history completed and signed by the parent/guardian within 30 days of the start of the season."
The release also noted that fall sports candidates who did not have a physical in the 2018-19 or 2019-20 school years would be required to get one. Knizek said that responsibility would fall on the student-athlete through a private health care provider, including those who intend to go out for a school sport for the first time.
"If you have a student-athlete that has not had a physical in that time frame, they are required to have one," Knizek said. "The kid has to do it."
In past years, some area schools offered student-athletes opportunities to get their physicals taken care of in the summer.
"Normally, at Shenendehowa, we would offer them three times in the summer," Knizek said. "We are not able to provide them at this point."
The fall sports season is scheduled to begin August 24.
The NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force has been gathering information and recommendations since the announcement of its membership May 12. Last week, the National Federation of State High School Associations issued a detailed series of guidelines that highlighted the complexity of playing contact sports like football and soccer in a relatively safe environment.
Task Force members were selected by NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica, with input and consultation from NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas. The task force consists of NYSPHSAA member superintendents, principals, athletic directors and executive directors in addition to representatives from New York State Athletic Administrators Association and State Education Department.
“The goal of this task force is to bring together a group of experienced administrators and professionals to examine potential impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the upcoming school year and to provide guidance and recommendations to the 11 sections of NYSPHSAA,” Harrica wrote in a press release.