While sports teams not affiliated with schools will likely enjoy the state’s latest round of rules regarding youth athletics, the same cannot be said for school teams.
Previous state guidelines indicated that regions entering Phase Four of reopening, which the local area did Friday, June 26, would allow school teams to begin modified summer conditioning workouts in low-risk sports. But the governor’s office made changes to that plan Thursday, June 25, to stop school teams from beginning summer workouts, while allowing outside youth sports clubs to use school facilities.
Local administrators voiced frustration with the late change of plans, not so much because of the decision itself, but because a lack of explanation regarding the differentiation between school and club sports.
“Obviously, everybody wants get out there and start conditioning for fall sports, and if you’re going to allow your facilities to be open to the public, we would want to get together with our kids as well,” Walton athletic director and boys soccer coach Justin Preston said. “We were all kind of looking forward to last Friday as the date that schools would have the option to open facilities. It just kind of puts things on hold and it does lead to a source of frustration.”
Like Preston, Delhi athletic director Jeff Ferrara said the school was preparing to comply with any guidelines yet to come from the state, and that he was eager for students to be able to begin participating again.
“First and foremost, it’s really about the physical well-being of the kids,” Ferrara said. “I’m not a healthcare expert, but with everything we do for the physical well-being of the kids, something we forget is the social and emotional well-being of the kids.
“That’s of paramount importance, and they’ve been home for so long,” he continued. “I understand the physical well-being, but we have to look out for their social well-being as well.”
Oneonta athletic director Jerry Mackey, who also coaches the school’s girls soccer and boys basketball teams, credited the New York State Public High School Athletic Association for being “amazingly proactive” regarding its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and acknowledged that the state government has several issues to address regarding public schools even without considering athletic concerns. Still, he echoed others in questioning the different treatment of club teams and school teams.
“There are so many balls in the air and so many ways to interpret all of the data. It’s all about keeping people safe and I’m obviously a proponent of that,” Mackey said. “It’s hard to explain to individual student-athletes that if they aren’t on a club team already, they can watch their friend drive off to a practice and we can’t do jumping jack drills on a 100-yard turf field.”
Rather than chafing against the rules as set forth, Mackey voiced frustration with the lack of explanation regarding the varying standards for club and school teams.
He and others may not have long to wait for more information as NYSPHSAA’s COVID-19 Task Force is set to meet for the second time Tuesday, June 30. Mackey said he expected to hear more following the meeting and speculated that holding up the beginning of school-related activities may have been a way to give the task force more time to create more focused guidelines for school teams.
“I can tell you from the meetings I’ve been in that nothing is being done maliciously, and the well-being of the kids is the goal,” he said.
The NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force was formed in early May and first met June 11.