Low-Risk Teams Prep For Fall

Masks, social distancing must be used, state says

New York State’s latest health guidelines allow Section 1 “low-risk” sports squads (boys’ and girls’ soccer, cross-country, swimming, field hockey, gymnastics, golf and tennis) to begin practices on Sept. 29. High-risk sports (football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading) will be moved to the spring, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Wednesday (Sept. 9).

State officials last week released detailed instructions for resuming the fall sports that have been given the go-ahead. 

New protocols include social distancing and changes in formations, such as set plays in soccer, which will be changed to avoid crowding. Soccer goalies will not be allowed to spit on their gloves (if they do, the gloves will be removed) and sidelines will be spread apart. Perhaps the most challenging of the protocols — and there are many for each sport — will be the use of masks during all games.

Dave Goddard, Haldane High School’s interim athletic director, said the challenges will be plenty, but the reward will be worth it.

“The challenges are certainly there,” Goddard said. “Masks, distancing — and schools are very sensitive about groups getting together. Everyone has different opinions, which makes things more difficult. Some schools may not open until October in their hybrid situation, while others are opening already. There are lots of different plans, and opinions, and that’s created some anxiety and difficulty behind the scenes. While some opinions may differ, everyone has the same goal — to make sure the kids compete safely.

“No doubt it will be a challenge, but it’s certainly worth it,” he continued. “If we can provide kids with a positive experience, it doesn’t matter how hard it is. That’s our job as educators, coaches, teachers — to provide a positive experience to the kids. The structure helps guide them, helps them grow as individuals.”

The new guidelines will also restrict spectators to two per athlete. “Some schools may screen spectators,” Goddard said. “These are tough times, and we need to get this right. We need to think through decisions. Make sure the kids are safe.”

Beacon High School Athletic Director John Giametta said the school’s athletes will do whatever they need to in order to play.

“The first priority is safety,” Giametta said. “Everyone is concerned about a [COVID-19] relapse. Then everything would be shut down again. So, we need to do our due diligence. If we have to wear masks, we will do it. It will take some time to get used to.”

Although he worries about the start-stop potential of a resurgence in the pandemic, Giametta said the payoff could be big if sports are allowed to continue. “It will be a really exciting time,” he said. “I think the protocols will be a small piece of it. As long as we can provide athletics in a safe environment, that’s essential. It’s so important for the young athletes to get back to some kind of normal, to get out on the field. That’s our bread and butter — it’s what we love to do.”

First-year Haldane boys’ soccer coach Ahmed Dwidar agreed that wearing masks will challenge players. “The health of our athletes is the most important thing,” Dwidar said. “It will be different, for sure, but we’ll do whatever we are told. 

“It will be difficult to breathe (while running),” he explained. “It will slow the pace of the game. Not only that, but there will be no walls on set plays; on corners, it will be a direct kick, all to prevent crowding around the goal.”

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