Updated: April 18, 2020 11:40 PM
Created: April 18, 2020 09:13 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Sports have the ability to shape the high school experience, whether you're on the court, field, diamond, track, ice, or cheering your classmates on from the stands.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the athletic landscape. First, it brought winter sports championships abruptly to an end. Now, spring championships are threatened, too.
Dr. Robert Zayas, the Executive Director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, says a decision is yet to be made on whether or not the spring sports season will be held. For now, teams are playing the waiting game.
"We are waiting on any kind of mandates or recommendations from the Governor's office pertaining to when students are permitted to go back into classrooms. Then, at that point in time, we're hoping that they're also able to go ahead and get back onto playing fields, tennis courts and tracks," says Zayas.
In order for that to happen, there are certain conditions that will need to be met.
"The Governor's office has said on a number of occasions that if businesses and schools are going to open back up, it's going to be in a safe and appropriate manner. That is extremely important in this type of situation where, right now, we're all practicing social distancing. High school athletics needs to be a by-product of schools opening. Without kids being permitted to be in their classroom, then they're also not gonna be allowed to participate in any kind of high school athletic program."
In the meantime, there are many conversations occurring about the pending spring season.
"I'm reaching out to high school athletic directors throughout the state on a random basis, just calling and making sure I have a good understanding of what's taking place throughout the state, but I'm also participating in a lot of athletic council calls with various sections," says Zayas.
The message he gives them is as clear as it can be in such an unclear situation.
"There's a lot of questions and there's a lot of desire to have things in place in preparation for when students may be able to return to school, but, unfortunately, there's not a lot of answers. I think that's the greatest message that I want to portray to our membership. We just have to be patient. We can start planning all we want, but unfortunately, when students are able to go back to school is when the planning is really going to ramp up, the decisions are really going to be made, and that's when we'll be able to get to work," says Zayas.
Although the decision for the future of spring sports doesn't solely lie on Zayas, it is something he takes personally.
"I understand the magnitude of what's taking place. I feel for those seniors that are trying to hope that they can get their last season of participation in and everything's up in the air. It's extremely troublesome, but there's things that need to be in greater focus at this point in time other than the high school athletic program, and that's the health and safety of all New Yorkers."
NYSPHSAA stated in a press release on March 23rd that the status of the spring state championships will be determined on or prior to April 27.
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