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Play on! NYSPHSAA reveals first steps towards returning to action

OP Quakers Section VI basketball
Posted at 8:52 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 21:03:21-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Gears are already turning to get high school athletes all over New York State back into action. The NYSPHSAA has started to outline its own plans and guidance following Governor Cuomo's announcement on Friday.

At the state level, practices and games are permitted as early as February 1st. But at the county level, each local health department will have to approve the timetable as well.

Every section across the state encompasses several counties; both local officials and the NYSPHSAA acknowledged the importance of being on the same page in order to have as normal a season as possible.

"There's going to continue to be some challenges and obstacles that we're going to have to work through," NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas said. "I'm confident we'll be able to do that."

"We are currently reviewing [state guidance] and will be better position to make decisions next week," Niagara County public health director Daniel J. Stapleton said in a statement. "It is also important that we have consistency between the counties across our region to the [fullest] extent possible."

From February 1st until the end of the school year, the NYSPHSAA plans to have a condensed fall, winter, and spring seasons. The conclusion of fall seasons will be up to each individual section.

The start of next month is still the target date for winter sports such as basketball and hockey. The fall season will return on March 1`st. Spring sports will begin on April 19th.

"Sections will be able to determine if those seasons goes into early March, or even mid-March, and if there is any overlap between what is now going to be fall sports season two."

Football and volleyball were the two fall sports that were postponed to the spring back on September 9th. Seasonal overlap and whether or not multi-sport athletes will have to choose which sport to play is up to each section.

However, some things don't change. When low-risk fall sports were approved, teams had to get in six practices before they could kick off their seasons. The same goes for every sport in this plan.

"The minimum practice requirements are in place as a safety precaution for our student athletes," Zayas said. "That is not going to be modified for this season."

Those requirements are six practices before inter-squad play for nearly all sports. Wrestling is the lone exception; it requires 10 practices before any matches can take place.

Masks will be required for all students who play high risk sports. The only exception will be students with medical authorization not to wear them.

"The policy that we were given early on states that everyone must wear masks if you cannot maintain six feet of social distance," Zayas said. "That's what the department of health has given us, and what our schools are going to abide by."

If a local health department doesn't approve high risk sports within its jurisdiction, the NYSPHSAA would still allow skills training, but no contact and no games. If a school is forced to close down due to COVID-19, then all athletics will have to be suspended as well.

The NYSPHSAA and Section VI will continue to meet to form more concrete plans regarding high-risk sports, league schedules, and multi-sport athletes. More details are expected on Monday.