Section III exec. director Rathbun waiting for more guidance from state

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The head of Section III athletics is still seeking more information from the state on the plan for how to start fall sports for local high schools.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that low-risk sports could begin play Sept. 21 while high-risk sports could begin practice.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association conducted two meetings in response to that announcement. The 11 section executive directors, officers and Association staff met, as did the Association’s COVID-19 task force. The meetings were held to examine and discuss the start of the fall sports seasons and analyze guidance from state officials.

Association Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said its primary role will be to work with schools, coaches and parents to ensure recommended COVID-19 guidelines are “practiced vigilantly for the safety and wellness of all student-athletes.” He called the governor’s announcement “a positive step” for the 200,000 high school athletes around the state.

Paul Harrica, president and chair of the COVID-19 task force, said, “Our primary goal is to get students back into an academic setting and then work on athletic participation opportunities.”

After the initial announcement, Westmoreland athletic director Mike Adey admitted there’s a lot of new information to process. “There’s a lot of questions but the good news is that it looks like we’re going to have sports.” He said he’ll be looking at how the changes impact the schedules already in place, including whether they’ll have to revamp those schedules or be able to adjust what’s already there. Then there’s the high-risk sports such as football, he noted. If those sports start in October, what will those schedules look like? He said an October start for football could still allow for at least five games.

“We’re just happy we can go through those problems and figure out what to do. These are workable problems,” Adey said. But the student-athletes will have to be serious about safety precautions, he added. “The kids are going to have to wear the masks and do what they have to do.”

Adey added: “I think all the schools are capable of doing what we have to do to have the season.” He said he talked to the school’s boys and girls soccer coaches about the news, and “They’re ecstatic to get the season in.”

Daniel Roberts, interim athletic director for Adirondack, was a bit confused by the initial plan. “While I would like nothing more than to return to a sense of normalcy on and off the athletic fields, I find the governor’s announcement regarding fall sports perplexing. School districts are being held to one set of standards during the school day. However, when the after school bell rings it appears, in essence, there would be a new, much looser, set of standards applied to those same student athletes.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Executive Director of Section III athletics John Rathbun tweeted twice about the situation. “We are still waiting for guidance from the Governor’s office so that we can complete a ‘Return to Interscholastic Athletics Document’ that we hope will answer a lot of questions regarding fans attendance, officials, protocols, safety, game day or sport adjustments etc.” He added, “We just need to remain patient as we evaluate and analyze our next steps.”

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