NYSPHSAA begins making plans for fall season

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Monday announcement cleared the way for most fall sports to begin practicing and playing Sept. 21, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association began the process of navigating the governor’s guidance Tuesday, Aug. 25, with the goal of facilitating some sort of fall sports season.

“The flavor is, let’s try to give the kids some chance to play,” Section IV Executive Director Ben Nelson told The Daily Star. “We aren’t worried about sections, we aren’t worried about state titles, maybe not even league titles. At this point, if we could get kids to practice and play a little, that would be great.”

According to a NYSPHSAA media release, the association held meetings with the state’s 11 section executive directors and convened its COVID-19 Task Force on Tuesday. The meetings follow a previously announced plan for the days following guidance from the state.

Cuomo’s announcement produced more questions than answers about the fall sports season Monday night, and Tuesday’s release from NYSPHSAA provided little in the way of specific decisions. But the release echoed Nelson’s message about enabling a season rather than debating whether or not to have one.

The release stated that meetings would continue this week “to address the number of required practices student-athletes will need before participating in a scrimmage or contest, the maximum number of contests and games to be permitted during the season and the development of considerations for schools to utilize as interscholastic athletics return to schools and communities throughout the state.”

“We are encouraged and appreciative of Gov. Cuomo authorizing the start of the fall sports seasons for low and moderate risk sports and affording high risk sports the opportunity to begin practicing on Sept. 21,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said in the release. “As the governing body for interscholastic sports in NYS, our primary role will be to work with schools, coaches and parents to ensure recommended COVID-19 guidelines are practiced vigilantly for the safety and wellness of all student-athletes. Over 200,000 students participate in the fall high school sports seasons and yesterday’s announcement was certainly a positive step for all those athletes.”

Nelson said he was unable to provide specific details as of Tuesday, and he declined to give a timeline of when specific guidance would come from the state association, though those discussions were set to continue Wednesday. He also said he had meetings with the Southern Tier Athletic Conference and Interscholastic Athletic Conference as well as further NYSPHSAA meetings slated for Wednesday.

With the state government giving permission for sports to begin and NYSPHSAA working to produce specific guidelines for school districts, Nelson said school districts will have the liberty to decide for themselves whether or not to have students participate in sports this fall.

“Right now, we are going by what the governor said,” Nelson said. “We can start the 21st, but I know some schools probably won’t. Each school has the right to decide what is best and safest for them.”

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