It's the start of the fall season for high schools' 'low-risk' sports
For high school fall sports deemed "low-risk" by New York State, Monday was the first day of practice for some districts.
These include cross country, soccer, girls’ tennis, golf, girls' swimming and field hockey.
There's a notable exception for girls' swimming. Out of concern for potential large numbers of spectators, the Niagara Frontier League has moved that sport to early spring. Sports deemed higher risks for COVID spread have also been moved to March, including football and volleyball.
Jon Roth, Athletic Director for Grand Island Central Schools, says there are several adjustments that needed to be made before practices and a fall schedule could proceed. Regarding spectators, teams will be allowed two people per athlete and physical distancing among spectators will be enforced.
"All kids will be getting screened with their temperature check and they will fill out a five- or six-part questionnaire," he said. "They can do it on their phone, or they can also do it on a paper before practice, before games, before boarding a bus, every day.”
Locker rooms and showers within school facilities will not be utilized. Players will need to arrive at practices and games dressed to play. Roth says Grand Island, for one, recently acquired a trailer which some of its teams will be able to use, a couple players at a time, as a changing room.
Masks will be required, though there may be some allowable exceptions.
"What we're doing at Grand Island, and I think Kenmore is doing it, and some of the other schools are doing, is if one of the athletes comes in with a physician's note that they can't wear masks, they can't tolerate it while running or whatever, we're gonna accept it,” Roth said.
Clarence Central Schools were expected to begin practices Tuesday. Sweet Home's school board, meanwhile, had scheduled a Monday evening meeting to determine what to do about the fall season. WBFO placed a call to Sweet Home's athletic department, but as of late Monday it was not returned.
Buffalo Public Schools have canceled fall sports.
Roth acknowledges another potential complication coming in March, when the rescheduled fall sports get underway. They'll be sandwiched between winter and spring seasons. Many student-athletes and coaches participate in multiple sports and, depending on schedules, some may find schedule conflicts.
"We are hoping they won't overlap and maybe you'll have a modified schedule. If they don't do that and then they do overlap, with football and baseball, we're in a little bit of trouble with some of the coaches and the athletes," he said. "I know New York State Public High School Athletic Association is working on that, in regards to try and not to overlap. And our Section VI will be helping us out with that, giving us some guidelines and, hopefully, we'll be able to do both without overlapping."
First, though, they'll work on the challenge of allowing the first high school sports to play in a COVID world.