By Mike Zummo
Basketball and wrestling were dealt another blow on Friday when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced the cancellation of all winter state championships and the postponement of all high-risk sports until authorization is granted by state officials.
“When examining the feasibility of Winter State Championships, it became apparent that travel and overnight accommodations would create a unique challenge for our member schools,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said on Friday. “At this time, we must prioritize maximizing student participation without a focus on championship events.”
Low- and moderate risk sports (bowling, swimming, and indoor track) are still authorized to begin in Section 9. Mid-Hudson Athletic League schools (Highland, Marlboro, and Wallkill) are expecting to begin on Jan. 4 and Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association schools (Chapel Field, Newburgh, Pine Bush and Valley Central) are allowed to begin on Jan. 19.
In tweet, following the state’s announcement, Section 9 officials announced, “we will do whatever we can to get low-and moderate-risk sports off the ground in January.”
The statement also said many ideas are being explored, which could include moving winter sports to the Fall 2 season in March and April or the spring.
“We are advocating for our student-athletes back to the field the safest way we can,” section officials said in the tweet.
The association’s decision to postpone high-risk sports until authorization is granted is not limited to only winter sports. It also indefinitely postpones not only basketball and wrestling, but football and volleyball, which are scheduled for March, and boys’ lacrosse in the spring, which would have been scheduled to begin April 19. The NYSPHSAA’s decision was based on the increase in infection and hospitalization rates across the state.
According to the New York State Department of Health, Orange County had 1,430 new cases of COVID-19 between Dec. 4 and 11, and a positivity rate of 7.9 percent. During the same time, Ulster County had 479 new cases with a positivity rate of 5 percent.
The cancellation of the winter state championships addresses concerns about increased travel, hotel accommodations, transportation, logistics and planning for meals. Venue capacity limitations and social distancing restrictions also make it difficult to ensure the safety of student-athletes, coaches, and families.
“As an educator, I am witnessing first-hand the challenges our member schools are facing each day in addressing this pandemic,” NYSPHSAA President Julie Bergman said. “It is important we continue listening to the concerns addressed by our membership when making decisions impacting interscholastic athletics.”
The 2021 NYSPHSAA spring state championships remain scheduled. The spring season is scheduled to begin April 19.