State panel pushes high-risk sports off to spring

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 9, that the seasons for fall sports designated as high-risk have been postponed to March 1.

The decision affects volleyball, football and competitive cheerleading. Low- and moderate-risk sports will still be permitted to begin practicing and playing games Sept. 21.

"This decision was focused on attempting to provide for those football and volleyball athletes, and competitive cheerleaders who compete in the fall, with the opportunity to have a quality participation experience," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said in a teleconference with media. "It was going to be very difficult to provide that to student-athletes right now with their only ability to practice until additional authorization is granted."

The "fall two" season will mirror the "fall one" season in that NYSPHSAA will not sponsor regional or state championships, per Zayas. As with the fall one season, and all seasons, the end date for the season will be up to individual sections.

The decision on fall sports is accompanied by an announcement that spring sports will be postponed from March 15 to April 19 in an attempt to minimize overlap between the fall two and spring seasons, according to Zayas.

"It is very important to us that the overlap is reduced," Zayas said. "You may recall, a few months ago when we talked about implementing the condensed season model, that was a major concern of our membership. So I'm hoping that the decision made today is evidence that we've been listing to the concerns our member schools and we've reduced that overlap from what was about four weeks down to two weeks."

Other notes from the conference include:

• Football and volleyball athletes will also be permitted to play a sport during the spring season. Student-athletes may play a sport in all four seasons, with decisions being left to the sections.

• High-risk sports may still practice during the fall one season as long as they comply with rules for "offseason conditioning workouts" as defined by NYSPHSAA and comply with Department of Health regulations. Zayas said the state's COVID-19 guidance document would be updated Thursday with further instruction for high-risk sports convening during the fall one season.

• Zayas did not specify how many games teams would be able to play during the fall two season, saying he hoped it would be "as many games as we possibly can."

• Moving high-risk sports to the fall two season does not affect the winter season, which has already been postponed from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30.

• Winter and spring state tournaments are still planned.

• The spring season may end later in the summer, with a number of outside factors at play outside of the NYSPHSAA.

• Sports played during the fall one season that are interrupted could potentially be moved to the fall two season, depending on several factors including how long the fall one season lasted before being disrupted.

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