Association postpones ‘high-risk’ high school sports

Rose Weldon
A play at Sewanhaka High School's 2019 Homecoming game. Football has been recognized as one of numerous "high-risk" sports which have been indefinitely postponed across the state. (Photo courtesy of the Sewanhaka Central High School District)

High-risk sports at the high school level across all seasons will be postponed until reauthorized by the state, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has announced. All 2021 championships in winter sports are also canceled, the association said.

The New York State Department of Health has determined these sports to be high risk: basketball, boys lacrosse, competitive cheerleading, football, ice hockey, volleyball and wrestling.

The association’s officers said in a statement that they had made the decisions with input from the membership and the executive directors of 11 sections across the state, according to Executive Director Robert Zayas.

“When examining the feasibility of Winter State Championships, it became apparent that travel and overnight accommodations would create a unique challenge for our member schools,” Zayas said. “At this time, we must prioritize maximizing student participation without a focus on championship events.”

The organization attributed the decision to “the increase in infection and hospitalization rates across the state of New York.”

All state championships in winter sports, which include bowling, basketball, boys swimming and diving, competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, indoor track and field, ice hockey, skiing, and wrestling, have  been canceled, which the association attributed to “membership concerns associated with increased travel, hotel accommodations, transportation logistics, and the planning for meals.”

“Furthermore, venue capacity limitations and social distancing restrictions make it increasingly difficult to ensure the safety of student-athletes, coaches, and families,” the association said in a statement.

“As an educator, I am witnessing first-hand the challenges our member schools are facing each day in addressing this pandemic,” said Julie Bergman, the association’s president. “It is important we continue listening to the concerns being expressed by our membership when making decisions impacting interscholastic athletics.”

Low- and moderate-risk regular season sports will continue to be permitted, the association says, and championships for spring and fall sports remain scheduled at this time.

Plans from the state originally called for a year’s worth of high school athletics to be condensed to six months. All winter sports were to begin on Jan. 4, including basketball, men’s swimming and diving, bowling, competitive cheerleading, indoor track, wrestling, gymnastics, and dance/kickline; followed by fall sports on March 1, including football, soccer, girls tennis, cross country running, volleyball, sideline cheerleading, dance/kickline team, field hockey, and girls swimming and diving; and finally ending with spring sports beginning on April 22 and including lacrosse, baseball, softball, boys tennis, track and field, girls badminton, and boys golf.

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