State, national athletic associations plan for a Covid-19 era fall high school sports season

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 25 May 2020 at 8:59 am

Following the cancellation the spring high school sports season the focus of national, state, sectional, local league and school district officials now turns to the potential impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the fall season which is scheduled to begin on August 24 with practice for football, soccer, cross-country, field hockey, volleyball and golf.

Faced with plenty of uncertainly about the potential impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic over the next few months both the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) are now taking steps to prepare for that very uncertain fall season.

The NYSPHSAA earlier this month formed a Covid-19 Task Force comprised of members from all the the state’s sections. Section VI is represented by section President Adam Stoltman the superintendent at Alden Central.

The Task Force, whose assignment is to examine the potential impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the fall season and on the 2020-21 academic year, will hold its first meeting on June 10

“At this time we are planning to start fall sports on August 24th,” Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director said.  “With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, I want to make sure we are prepared to focus attention on keeping student-athletes engaged in their school communities and active, while also abiding by Department of Health and Governor Cuomo’s guidelines.  We must have innovative and creative thought to provide beneficial participation playing experiences for students.”

“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,” said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA President.

The uncertainly of the future of the Covid-19 Pandemic and it’s impact from region to region and from state to state is well reflected in a document released by the NFHS aimed at serving as guidance for state athletic associations in planning for the re-opening of high school athletics and activities.

“We are greatly indebted to the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) for its working formulating this guidance for re-opening high school athletics and activities,” said NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff. “It is important to be clear that this is guidance for individual states to consider as they return to activities this fall. States will utilize the guidance in this document as it best fits their state after consulting with local and state health departments.”

The document states that “the NFHS SMAC believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition. The NFHS SMAC recognizes that it is likely that ALL students will not be able to return to – and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools, regions and states. There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely.”

NFHS officials add that “similar to the manner in which different parts of the country have re-opened ahead of others due to containment levels of the virus, the guidance document was developed with the realization that there likely will be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held from one part of the country to another.

They added, “along the same lines, the NFHS guidance document describes a staged approach to re-opening high school sports and other activities, similar to the phases of “opening up” outlines by the White House last month. The committee suggests that state high school associations consult with their state and local health departments for determining the appropriate dates for implementing a phased-in approach within their respective states.”