School sports to resume September 21

Rob Maeske
The Chronicle-Express

Monday, Aug. 24, the announcement was made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that some school sports would be able to resume later this month. As of Sept. 21, certain sports deemed as “low risk” for spreading COVID-19 will be able to begin activities, while others, including football and volleyball, will continue to be on hold as they are considered to have a higher risk of spreading the virus.

Fall athletes like these from Penn Yan Academy last year, have been waiting to hear when and how school sports might resume.

Specific sports that have been given the go-ahead in September include soccer, swimming, field hockey, gymnastics, golf, cross country, and tennis. However, school teams will be restricted from traveling outside of their home regions.

The NYSPHSAA logo.

“Schools will be coming back,” said Cuomo during his press conference. “There will be a little bit of a period to gauge what’s happening and on Sept. 21, they can start practicing and playing across the state.”

While those sports that have been deemed too high risk for competitive play still have an indeterminate wait on their hands, they are being allowed to begin practices, according to Cuomo.

It came as welcome news for athletes and scholastic sports programs who faced an uncertain future just a couple of weeks ago, but Cuomo’s announcement also raised several questions including fan attendance and what exactly would be required of schools before they begin sports activities.


NYSPHSAA’s COVID Task Force met last Monday to discuss those questions and NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas and Director of Communications Chris Watson hosted a Zoom call that evening to elaborate on the requirements moving forward.

Several major points were discussed during the meeting, including:

  • The decision to delay the start of the Winter sports season by two weeks, bringing the start of Winter sports to Nov. 30.
  • A change in practice requirements for athletes. Previously, most sports teams were required to have six mandatory practices before playing, with higher-risk sports such as football and wrestling requiring 10. Upon resuming sports, all teams will need a minimum of 10 practices, with the exception of football, which will need 12.
  • The majority of Fall sports will be able to start practices on, but not before Sept. 21, as per the governor’s orders.
  • Football and volleyball have been deemed high-risk for transmission of the virus and are practice-only until further notice. Practices must be non-contact and may only focus on skill improvement.
  • The low and moderate-risk sports that will be allowed to play games may only compete within their individual leagues or Sections until Oct. 19. After that, inter-league play may resume as long as the State has not extended the restriction period.
  • NYSPHSAA has decided to waive a rule that says teams may not practice on seven consecutive days. This waiver goes into effect Oct. 12.
  • Students who are attending school remotely are still eligible to play on teams. As per NYSPHSAA’s “Bona Fide Student” rule, a student must be enrolled in three classes plus a Physical Education class to be eligible for team sports, regardless of the platform used to attend those classes.
  • Attendance at events will be restricted to two spectators per athlete. There will currently be no direct media attendance allowed at events.

Dr. Zayas answered questions fielded by reporters, coaches, athletic directors, and concerned parents, but stressed that much of the future was still unknown and contingent on how successfully the new rules would be implemented and further guidance from the State as it was needed.

“We’re taking it day by day,” said Zayas, during the meeting. “We’re working seven days a week right now as a collective group in order to provide as much guidance and resources as possible to our member schools.”

A comprehensive guidance document detailing all the new rules and regulations was released Friday. Dr. Zayas encouraged anyone with further questions to contact NYSPHSAA either through their website at or by phone at 518-690-0771.