Chavez: We’ve started high school sports, but it’s weird
It’s been perhaps the quietest opening ever for a high school sports season. But at least it’s opening, right?
It is, but something is missing. Actually, a lot is missing.
Because while soccer, cross-country, golf, swimming, and tennis started practices this week for many area schools, cheer, volleyball, and football did not. It’s an accurate reflection of overall life in these days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Early on, we of course still had a way of life to lead. We worked as best we could without going to an office or a job site. We shopped as best we could without going to a store. We went to school without getting on a bus or sitting in a classroom. We cut our own hair, we cooked our own food more than usual and we got more done around the house before Memorial Day than we did in all of 2019.
Since, we’ve made progress and while much of life has returned, it’s still different. Very, very different. We wear masks, we sanitize and we keep our distance.
Still, the progress is encouraging. And one of the indicators of that progress is the return of high school sports. But again, it’s different.
While it’s fantastic to see soccer teams back on the pitch and tennis players back on the courts, we’re missing the sound of football on the field and the squeaks of sneakers on the volleyball courts.
Those sounds are a big part of the fall sports landscape and with this recent spell of cool weather, the absence of football is magnified.
The thing is, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. Could it be better with football, cheer, and volleyball going on? Of course.
But we could also be in the spot we were in the spring when we had zero sports going on. And we could also be in the spot other sections around New York are in today. Sections IV, VIII, IX, and XI have all postponed fall sports until the 2021 calendar year.
So there’s that.
At least we’ll get the opportunity to see and play some sports, starting with games in the next week or so. Does that make those not playing feel better? Probably not.
I never played varsity sports in high school but here’s the proverbial if-I-could-do-it-all-over-again take: If I’m in school right now and I’m missing my regular fall sport, I am all over this 2020 opportunity.
If I’m not playing soccer, at the very least I am running cross country. What better way to stay in shape? But even better, how cool would it be to play four sports in a school year and possibly even letter in all four?
Trust me, that’s something that will be a point of pride in the years following graduation. And if we can ever get back to normal, it’s something you’ll have that’s unique because the chance to do this won’t be around forever. I hope, anyway
Maybe it’s a reach to try to spin this so positively, but whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, there still is something in the glass for us in Section V to drink. And that’s more than other areas of New York can say.
As we know, sulking about situations rarely if ever accomplishes anything. It’s too easy to sit around and wish for something, but doing that blinds us to the efforts of all the people we have behind the scenes doing everything they can to provide athletic experiences.
And when we talk about people behind the scenes, there are plenty beyond the athletic directors and superintendents at the schools. Ultimately, the decision to move the high-risk sports to March came from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which has taken a lot of heat for making that call.
And that’s just not fair because there is an important distinction to make. The labels of risk assigned to various sports come from the state Department of Health, not NYSPHSAA. So not allowing the high-risk sports to play games is a state decision, not a NYSPHSAA decision.
Indeed, practices are allowed for these sports, but the state guidelines were clear in not allowing competition. And as Jeff DiVeronica pointed out on his weekly Connors and Ferris High School Sports radio show (Saturday, 9 a.m. on WHTK 1280-AM), it is literally the job of NYSPHSAA to explore and find athletic opportunities for high school athletes in New York.
And that’s what it did by moving the high-risk sports to March. It found an opportunity in a time when many of our opportunities have been limited or even taken from us.
But with the way our world is now, the job of finding these opportunities also means finding them in a safe environment. And no matter where you fall in the discussion about the coronavirus, the fact right now is this: It’s not safe. It’s still here and it’s still killing people.
As we’ve seen in society in general, it’s possible to move forward with plenty of precautions and remain safer than perhaps we would have been in March. So maybe we’re safer, but we’re still not completely safe.
That was the driving force behind the NYSPHSAA decision and the result is a tremendous amount of work. Dr. Robert Zayas, executive director of NYSPHSAA, has said that before the pandemic, he was accustomed to seeing maybe 50 or 60 e-mails when he started his day at work. For the last few months, that number is in the hundreds.
NYSPHSAA has nothing to gain by moving football and other sports to March. Many of us don’t agree with the decision, but can’t we at least agree that the goal is to keep kids safe while trying to get to the happy side of this pandemic?
How close we are to that happy side is anyone’s guess. Until then, let’s focus on what’s available and use what we have to make all of us better for it.