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THE WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE AND WHEN OF FALL SPORTS

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Return Of HS Athletics

By Rich Thomaselli
HVSR Staff

Finally, after much waiting, high school sports are returning with a limited – and truncated – fall season.

Here are some of the biggest bullet points you need to know about the return.

* Section 1 allows practice to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 29. High school sports ended prematurely in mid-March when the winter season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most winter sports were deep in postseason play at the time; the spring season was subsequently canceled entirely.

* The fall season originally was scheduled to begin on Aug. 24. That was postponed twice, and then the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in conjunction with the state Department of Health decided to move so-called high-risk sports – those that could more easily transmit the virus – to the spring. That is now being called the ‘Fall Season II’ and features football, volleyball, competitive cheerleading and girls swimming. Girls swimming is considered low- to moderate-risk but the limitations on the use of many facilities, already a problem in the area long before the pandemic, forced the move. So fall season will begin with boys soccer, girls soccer, boys cross country, girls cross country, girls tennis and field hockey.

* Players on each team must have a minimum 10 days of practice. For Section 1, that means games will not begin until at least Oct. 10. According to Arlington athletic director Mike Cring, section teams are striving to play 10 or 11 games during the regular season and then hoping Section 1 administrators agree on sectional postseason tournaments. The NYSPHSAA already canceled anything beyond sectional championships for the fall season, so there will be no regional or state champions this year. Cross country teams will compete only in dual- or tri-meets this season to limit the number of runners on the course. There will be no invitationals on weekends.

* Nearly all of the 80 or so Section 1 schools are playing with the exception of the Yonkers school district, which opted out of fall sports for its eight high schools, and Pawling, which did the same. The status of Poughkeepsie remains unknown, as the school is currently without an athletic director. Statewide, four of the 11 sections will not play fall sports until March – Sections 8 and 11, covering all of Long Island; Section 9, with schools in Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and parts of Dutchess County; and Section 4, covering Binghamton and the Southern Tier.

* Safety and health protocols will be of the utmost importance all around. Players and coaches need to be socially distant on the sidelines and on the bus. Players must come to the field dressed for practice and games; locker rooms will not be available. All team members must wear face masks at all times, including during games as per a new directive from the state. How that plays out remains to be seen as many athletes are likely to have difficulty trying to hustle up and down a soccer field or running a cross country race while wearing a mask.

* Most schools are only providing buses to athletic events, not to practice, and even those will be half-full. That creates an issue of some younger players relying on parents to get them to games or practices, and/or juniors and seniors with drivers licenses to begin creating car pools.

* It remains to be seen whether fans will be admitted to athletic contests. Initially it was two fans per player but the state has a rule in place on gatherings of no more than 50 people, even outdoors. How that affects spectators from a visiting team also has yet to be determined.

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