For fall athletes in 2020, not shaking hands will make you a good sport.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association released its "Return to Interscholastic Athletics" guideline document late Friday, Sept. 4, centralizing the guidance of the Department of Health and legislating for its use in athletic settings.

While the specific guidance largely does not stray from previously reported decisions about various sports regarding when they can begin activities and what those activities can include, perhaps the largest revelation is the size of the task that school administrators will have in implementing and enforcing the guidelines as set forth.

A disclaimer on the fourth page of the 41-page document states, "this document is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace, change or supplement any of the state-issued guidance."

On page 11, under the heading "considerations for school administrators," it says "individual school districts have the authority and autonomy to administer their district's athletic programs as they deem appropriate."

This became apparent Thursday as Oneonta and Norwich each elected to push their fall seasons to 2021.

On Monday, Aug. 31, NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said the goal was to produce a document that was "clear and concise" for school administrators. The document does specify the guidance produced by the Department of Health – but relies heavily on "responsible parties" for everything from limiting overcrowding at venues, overseeing spacing among athletes on sidelines, generating plans for athletes to safely hydrate, and numerous other concerns about how to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The document also includes extensive guidance on everything from limiting contact between officials, coaches and players at pregame meetings to having teams practice in cohorts that could limit the spread of the virus if a case reaches a team.

There is also guidance for some specific sports, including a suggestion to use staggered starts in cross country meets and avoiding the use of hard materials in masks worn by soccer players.

All of that and more will be up to school administrators and coaches as they consider whether or not to vote in favor of holding a fall season, as well as how to implement this guidance should a season be held.

The full document can be found online at nysphsaa.org under "headlines."

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