NYSPHSAA Announces Indoor Track To Begin; Questions Remain

It's been another whirlwind few days of breaking news in regards to the Scholastic Sports Season, repeating a flurry of announcements we saw dictate the Fall Season back in September.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association released guidance that low and moderate risk sports are permitted to be played this Winter, with November 30th set as the start date. The release came just hours after a response from the State Budget Director Robert Mujica on a conference call stating, " the state is 'not inclined to go ahead with opening winter sports at this time... The numbers right now don't indicate that we're going to expand them right now, with the exception of skiing,'" according to multiple journalists on the call. It would seem NYSPHSAA cleared up the wording of that statement by clarifying that was only applied to sports deemed as high risk, such as Basketball and Wrestling.

The two confirmations are the first hurdles cleared to ensure participation this Winter, but are far from the only ones. As with XC in the Fall, the decision hold Winter Sports must begin with Governor Cuomo, flow through NYSPHSAA, then is ultimately decided by individual Sections, as well as then moving on to the calls from individual school district superintendents. For example, Cross Country was cleared in New York State this Fall, but several Sections had punted the season to Fall II, set to be played in March. In addition, among the Sections that decided to move forward, several leagues and individual school districts decided to move to Fall II as well. It created a patchwork of the sport across the Empire State.

Already, Section 3 has made a similar decision to postpone their Indoor Season indefinitely. The decision largely came down to a lack of facilities willing to host the sport, after the Collegiate Season has been all but wiped in the Northeast. Other Sections are moving in that direction, also citing budget constraints for a sport that would not see competition. Others have decided to simply push the decision until more guidance was available, which surely prompted the Section 4 IAC League to push the startdate to Jan 1st at the earliest.

There are more hurdles for those who do begin to come back November 30th. A new designation from the State, labeling Corona Hotspots as "Yellowzones," further limits mass gatherings from 50 people to a meager 25 person cap. With the diversity of Track & Field, it would be hard to hold a meet of any kind. Outside of the new regulations, travel restrictions were in place for the first half of the Fall XC Season, requiring all teams stay within their Section. If a similar restriction was to be put in place, it would leave the Armory and Ocean Breeze Facilities nearly bare, as the CHSAA hosts the only teams within the City limits that are set to host a Season. The PSAL has been suspended indefinitely, with no signs of a return.

Likewise, neighboring states have already put in similar restrictions. Just yesterday, New Jersey announced they would not allow any interstate competition, which would eliminate any overlap between NY and NJ athletes typically seen at the mega-Invitationals of the Winter Season.

The news comes as New York Coronavirus numbers begin to rise again.

However, there is some bright spots in the future. The New York State Indoor Track & Field Championships are still scheduled on http://nysphsaa.org/Sports/Track-Field-Indoor, as well as some few options for Facilities sprinkled across the State. In addition, as New Jersey is employing, Polar Bear Meets are being considered as options, given the unseasonably warm weather. Traditionally utilized by the Southern States of the Country, Polar Bear Meets use Indoor Distances and contest them Outdoors. Obviously, the weather is more friendly to that idea in say, South Carolina, than Central New York, but it is an idea that can be employed while the Season cooperates.

In addition, a new vaccine has been showing promising results. While it would not have a direct effect on Sports for the 2021 School year, it does provide some hope that the interruptions would not continue in the next academic year, as some have postured.

We plan to bring you any and all updates we can find, as the situation seems to be a set of rolling decisions over the next few weeks.