Return of school sports in age of COVID-19 raises questions — here are some answers

The announcement that school sports could return this fall has certainly left us with a lot of questions. Our editors took a look at the state’s guidelines to find some answers. (Note: Riverhead school sports are currently canceled this year as the district operates on a contingent budget.)

Q: When do school sports begin?

A: Lower-risk sports may begin practice Sept. 21. Game schedules are still being worked out.

Q: How will they make up for lost time?

A: One way is by waiving the seven-day rule. Beginning Oct. 12, teams will be allowed to practice every day of the week.

Q: Which sports won’t return?

A: In the fall, that means there will be no local football or girls volleyball games. Wrestling also appears in jeopardy this winter.

Q: Have they said when winter sports will start?

A: Yes. Winter sports have been pushed back from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30.

Q: Who is deciding all of this?

A: New York State Public High School Athletic Association staff is working with section directors across the state and a COVID-19 task force.

Q: What are they still discussing?

A: According to an NYSPHSAA statement last week, “decisions must be formulized to address the number of required practices student-athletes will need before participating in a scrimmage or contest, the maximum number of contests and games to be permitted during the season and the development of considerations for schools to utilize as interscholastic athletics return to schools and communities throughout the state.” Those discussions have since taken place and determinations will be released Friday, Sept. 4.

Q: What does it mean for sports if a school closes due to an outbreak?

A: School-sponsored sports must be suspended until in-person education is resumed, with the exception being schools that have opted for full remote learning. 

Q: Have they said if spectators will be allowed to attend games?

A: Yes, with restrictions in place for games played indoors, which could be more of a factor in winter, if guidelines do not change. Essentially, crowds would be limited to 50% capacity or two spectators per athlete. Parents will have to social distance and wear face masks.