Updated: January 22, 2021 11:10 PM
Created: January 22, 2021 03:02 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — High-risk high school sports are back on the calendar starting next month. Friday the state allowed for close physical contact sports such as football, basketball and wrestling to begin training for their upcoming season.
News10NBC took a look at the strict guidelines schools must follow to help ensure everyone's safety. Student-athletes and their coaches have been waiting for the past 10 months to find out when they can resume their sports season. That answer came late in the afternoon.
Basketball, and volleyball courts, ice hockey rinks, and football fields will once again host high school sporting events after the State released new guidelines to the surprise of most players and coaches. New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Dr. Robert Zayas says this decision has been in the works for months now.
"We heard in November, and early December that in order to expand the sports offerings we were going to have to see a decline in infection rates, and hospitalizations. In Governor Cuomo’s' press conference earlier today we did see some evidence of that," Zayas said.
According to the guidelines, these sports can resume on Feb. 1st, only with the approval of county health authorities. Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello both support the State's decision.
"I've heard, and I've talked to many a student-athletes and coaches about this issue for some time, and I do trust with the right guidance, and safeguards in place that this can be done safely," Bello said.
Athletes can take part in individual, or distanced group training as well as competitions and tournaments. Travel outside the region is strongly discouraged, but if done, schools must adhere to the requirements of the state's travel advisory. Athletes, and coaches are happy that the wait is over.
"I'm just so happy to be able to get back doing what I love, and being with my teammates," Victor High School Football and Basketball Player Connor Williams said. "I think that everyone is so happy that the Governor gave us a chance to do this, and we still have to make sure we're doing it safely, but we're so excited."
"I know how much all the student-athletes in the area, and the coaches that have been pushing for," Webster Schroeder Football, and East High School Lacrosse Coach Sean Banks added. "They've been very active on Twitter, and other social media outlets about advocating for sports, for high-risk sports to start, and it makes it gratifying to hear the news that our voices were heard."
As with all sporting events, masks must be worn at all times unless you're eating or drinking. The guidelines also stipulate that capacity is limited to no more than 50% at these events.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Micheal Mendoza released a joint statement Friday, saying that in the coming days, they will work with local school districts to start high-risk sports:
"Over the past several weeks, we have heard from many parents, families and student-athletes regarding a return of ‘higher-risk’ high school sports. This is an issue we’ve been continuously advocating for through the Finger Lakes Regional Control Room, to ensure our young athletes have an opportunity to compete safely. There have been many meetings with the Monroe County School Superintendents and Athletic Directors, as this planning requires public health and safety remain at the forefront. Our school districts have done an incredible job mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We support the Governor’s proposal to allow these activities to resume on February 1, 2021, and we support allowing these activities to begin in Monroe County. We will be again meeting with area school leadership in the coming days to develop plans so that our young people in Monroe County can participate.
"We know how hard the last 10 months have been for our community, particularly our students and high school student-athletes. The return of high school sports will give them a sense of normalcy, and an opportunity to compete with their friends and classmates."
The S2AY Rural Health Network released the following statement:
"As a region, the local health departments of the Finger Lakes (including Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Livingston, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Seneca and Yates counties) are in support of re-opening high-risk sports but want to make sure it’s done safely and uniformly. As a region, we will be discussing and drafting additional guidance with our school partners to ensure a consistent, regional approach. We are planning to provide that guidance early next week."
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