With practices set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 29, for boys and girls soccer, cross-country, girls tennis, girls swimming and field hockey, school districts throughout Section I appear set to give the green light.
John Jay and Fox Lane have not yet received the official word to proceed, but school officials anticipate getting the go-ahead in advance of the scheduled Sept. 29 start date.
Girls swimming, however, remains in limbo as most Section I teams use off-site facilities which have either limited their use or remain shuttered.
“Here at John Jay, we have a plan in place for varsity only and we moved JV Coaches to up to varsity as a second assistant to comply with NYSPHSAA recommendations,” said Chris McCarthy, John Jay’s director of health, physical education, athletics and wellness. “Our plan is still under review by our Board of Education and will be finalized no later than Saturday, Sept. 26.”
That plan will include the guidelines that will need to be followed to ensure the safety of those participating, as well as the fans.
“The plan remains fluid,” McCarthy said. “We will complete a health screening prior to the student-athlete being cleared to participate in practice or games.”
He continued, “We are awaiting additional guidance from the Section. We are hopeful that we will have a Section-wide plan for spectators. It remains challenging, but our goal is clear and that is to have our student-athletes return to athletic competition safely.”
This has already been a fall season like no other, and it is about to become even more complicated — if that’s possible —with the guidelines the state has drawn up.
Players, coaches and fans will have a myriad of safety checks and protocols that will need to be followed, beginning with the mandatory health screenings of anyone coming on campus. Meanwhile, student-athletes will be required to complete a daily health screening survey which contains questions pertaining to possible contact with positive COVID-19 cases.
Coaches and players are required to check temperatures prior to practice. Anyone posting 100 degrees or higher temperature will be sent to a designated area to be picked up or sent home.
For road games, the visiting team’s athletic director will be responsible for clearing coaches and players to participate.
Other rules include the following:
— At games and practices, the athletes should maintain a 6-foot distance between one another while on the sidelines and wear masks, unless the athlete cannot tolerate wearing a facial covering.
— The players should not spit on the field, should avoid hugging, high-fiving, shaking hands or fist bumping as part of a celebration; while also being responsible for their own equipment such as hand sanitizer, water bottles and towels.
— Coaches will be responsible that all players adhere to those guidelines, while also keeping accurate records of everyone who attends a game or practice in case contact tracing is needed. The coaches will also need to take daily temperature checks of their staff and players.
— Spectators will be limited to two per participant with the host school’s athletic director responsible for maintaining that number.
— Fans also should maintain 6-feet of distance between individuals and family units.
— Members of a household are allowed to sit together, while wearing a mask.
“So far everything looks like we will be able to move forward with the Sept. 29 start date,” Fox Lane Athletic Director Adam Lodewick said.
“We are excited to get started,” he continued. “There will be certain protocols in place such has a daily screening that must be completed prior to attending practices, but there is more guidance coming in regards to these things, so things may change.”
He added, “We would just ask for everyone’s continued patience and understanding as we begin to move ahead. The top priority remains getting these student-athletes back on the field safely and it will require cooperation and some concessions from all parties.”
Lodewick said, “It’s not going to look the same, but if we are able to get these teams competing and playing with their peers, then it will be a success.”
Additionally, ADs around the Section have been busy scrambling to put together a schedule that allows them to play within their geographic section through Oct. 19. After that date, teams may travel outside their home section for contests.
“We have new schedules coming out of Section I Athletics and then we will add some additional local out of league games,” McCarthy said. “The max game schedule is 12.”
Section I can decide to have championship tournaments in the fall sports. There will be no state tournaments this fall.
“Scheduling of games has been fine,” Lodewick said. “We will play as much of our league schedules as we can because many are geographically based and then any remaining games we will try to schedule with neighboring districts.”
Meanwhile, the start of the winter season, which includes ice hockey, basketball, wrestling, boys’ swimming and indoor track will commence Nov. 30.