The window for New York playing high school sports this fall is closing rapidly.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) has issued several press releases, and recently published a tentative athletics plan if fall sports do not resume in September.
The surge of COVID-19 cases in late-winter canceled the conclusion of the 2020 state championships, and the spring sports season was completed wiped away as teachers and students sheltered in their homes, and completed required schoolwork virtually.
Earlier this month, we spoke to Norwich High School athletics coordinator, Rich Turnbull, regarding the state of sports – and all extracurricular activities.
Full disclosure, in my early years working for The Evening Sun, I covered Turnbull during his junior and season seasons playing varsity baseball for Edmeston. I should also note, Turnbull, and his wife and children, live in Norwich next door to my parents.
“I guess I’ve become a little pessimistic,” Turnbull said in a phone interview earlier this month regarding the possibility of playing sports this fall.
Turnbull noted that part of New Yorik’s phase 4 reopening allowed for school teams to begin training, but that plan was scrapped when the NYSPHSAA ruled that no interscholastic teams could train, only travel teams.
“I lost a little bit of hope, because I thought the athletes would be allowed to train,” Turnbull said.
The guidance released by the state addresses the opening of schools, but clearly states, Turnbull said, no interscholastic activities at this time.
The moratorium on extracurricular activities will, presumably, extend to any academic clubs, music, arts, and theater.
“I think (the resumption of extracurricular activities) is a moving goal line,” Turnbull said. “If I was betting, I don’t see it happening. I think every AD (athletics director) is frustrated, and we’re looking out for the safety of the kids. We just want some clear direction. It seems like everyone is canceling, and if we’re following the trend, I’m not very optimistic at all. How can you stay safe? If they’re not letting colleges play…basically, every college around us is canceling their seasons.”
Turnbull graduated from high school in the late 1990s, and still is not too far removed from competitive sports to remember the feeling he had playing sports. He was asked how he would have felt if extracurricular activities were taken away
“As a kid, personally, I participated in everything,” Turnbull said. “I was in band, I was in choir, I played sports. I was in all sorts of stuff. If it was yanked, for me, I’d probably be disenfranchised, angry, and looking for things to do.”
Extracurricular activities, Turnbull said, were not just vehicles to keep a busy person occupied. They were also a means to develop as a person.
“I went to a small school, but I used the extracurricular activities as socialization and to meet with friends,” Turnbull said. “It would have really affected me mentally and socially. I wouldn’t have had that crutch to depend on – an outlet for activity.
Turnbull is also concerned that the absence of activities could bring an end to some sports as some school activities that are already hurting for numbers.
“We have some kids that are just squeaking by, and without sports, they’ll seek other avenues to occupy their time,” Turnbull said. “Some sports we have were already hurting for numbers. If we miss a whole season, will those sports be able to survive?” Up-to-date guidance on New York scholastic sports is available online at http://www.nysphsaa.org/, and the most recent updates on the sports season are available on the COVID-19 Info link at http://www.nysphsaa.org/COVID-19-Info.