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Covid-19 is already impacting scholastic fall sports season

Those holding out hope that the coronavirus pandemic will not affect the fall scholastic sports season for 2020 might want to start accepting the fact Covid-19 has already started impacting it – at least in regards to football.

While some athletes are able to do personal workouts and train on their own, there have been no 7-on-7 passing leagues for area teams due to social distancing guidelines. There are no linemen camps for big fellas to improve their techniques. Football camps offered by Division I colleges – a key tool in the recruiting game – are on hold. Group lifts at school, a key for team bonding, also are a no-no.

The only way for coaches to see and monitor their players are through online programs like Zoom.

The question is – will the pandemic affect the start of practice for the fall sports season, which is Aug. 24 for most area teams? Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association team football practices are scheduled to start Aug. 21.

Football openers are scheduled for Sept. 5 for Monsignor Martin schools and the Section VI Football Federation begins with games Sept. 10, 11 and 12.

“I think we’re all waiting a couple weeks at a time,” Orchard Park football coach Craig Dana said. “We’ll see how things are in respect to the quarantine as we get into June and July and how it’ll affect the area. Definitely, there are some concerns how it’ll affect school in the fall.”

Covid-19’s potential impact on the start of the next school year is something the New York State Public High School Athletic Association is starting to address.

Section VI executive director Timm Slade said the section will shift its focus on the fall during its next athletic council meeting May 13 now that the spring sports season is officially over.

The section played the waiting game because like the NYSPHSAA, it was holding out hope schools would open by June 1 so that there could be a short regular season for spring sports That hope ended Friday morning when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced schools would remain closed with virtual learning continuing until the end of the school year.

Schools must be open and in session in order for extracurricular activities like sports to take place.

The NYSPHSAA announced it will form a committee to provide guidance on sports for the fall. The ad hoc committee will include NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas, school district superintendents, principals, athletic directors, section executive directors as well as potential representatives from the state departments of education and health. NYSPHSAA president Paul Harrica is charged with selecting the members. The committee will likely begin meeting at the end of May or early June.

"The committee will convene to make recommendations if needed to NYSPHSAA’s 11 member Sections to assist with planning and coordination of high school athletic programs," the NYSPHSAA said in a statement Friday.

That’s a good move, according to South Park football coach Tim Delaney.

“I think the biggest thing for everybody is – how is the school year going to proceed in the fall?" Delaney said. “You can’t have fall sports if we’re not in school. Depending on how they proceed with the opening of school for all districts, it’s going to be different. You have to have common ground for that, so it’s good they’re already deciding to talk about what they’re going to do.

“You have to have a little foresight as to what are the possibilities positive and negative. What are you going to be able to do to play sports and go back to school? Those two things go hand in hand.”

Dana said a large indicator as to what could happen is what happens with the professional leagues.

Once the NBA made the call to suspend its season in early March, the NHL, MLB, college and scholastic sports all followed suit.

“If those pro leagues are going forward or not that will decide what happens,” Dana said.

“I’ve been teaching for 20 years,” Dana continued. “We’ve had three, four or five days during a blizzard where school would be closed. For school to be shut down from March 13 to end of year is unprecedented. We’re still trying to navigate through this. Not in my lifetime or recent history is there anything comparable to this.”

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