The start dates for high-risk winter sports, which locally includes basketball and wrestling, has been postponed until Jan. 4, 2021, by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said the latest postponement came out of concerns expressed by the association’s member schools as authorization for basketball and wrestling to compete, or even hold full practices has not been granted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Dept. of Health.
Also, state and nationwide, the COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
“There are some sections where there’s a lot of schools where it’s just not possible to start the winter sports season, whether it be on Nov. 30, mid-December, or even January at this point in time,” Zayas said on a conference call on Nov. 19.
This is the second time basketball and wrestling has been postponed. Originally scheduled to start Nov. 16, they were also pushed to Nov. 30 with the other sports before the latest postponement.
“It gives us more time to work with state officials as they examine and analyze their metrics,” Zayas said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some authorization in the month of December to begin on Jan. 4.”
Zayas also said the association’s advocacy efforts have been hindered by not only the spike in cases, but concerns voiced by members schools about high-risk sports, but that hasn’t stopped him from making suggestions.
He has suggested using the micro cluster approach that the state has been using to target COVID-19 outbreaks.
For instance, if a school is in orange or red, they would suspend sports, and practice only if it were in yellow.
He also suggested limiting travel and keeping teams within the state and not allowing any out-of-state teams to come in.
“It has to be safe and it has to be appropriate,” Zayas said.
As the season gets shorter, the winter state championships have not been canceled as of press time, and there is no talk of canceling the winter season at this time.
“We’re not going to cancel prematurely,” Zayas said. “We’re not going to make a decision to cancel the winter sports season in November without having readily available information and being able to work with our state officials.”
Low and moderate-risk sports, which locally include bowling, gymnastics, indoor track and field, and swimming and diving, are still authorized to begin on Nov. 30 for schools and sections who have determined it is feasible to do so. Regular season contests can begin for those sports once student athletes have participated in the required number of practices.
However, some sports could face additional challenges, especially indoor track.
While authorized to begin, Section 9 athletes may have nowhere to compete as Section 9 won’t be able to use the Gillis Field House at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not looking good for indoor track right now,” Newburgh Free Academy girls’ track coach Kathi Workman said.
There could be an issue with swimming as two area schools don’t have pools of their own. Newburgh Free Academy’s pool is under renovation, but district spokeswoman Cassie Sklarz said the district has an agreement with an area pool for when that time comes.
Wallkill, which has a girls’ swimming team scheduled for the March/April season, will also have to find a pool for that season.