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NYSPHSAA delays high-risk winter high school sports until 2021

With COVID-19 numbers in New York once again trending in the wrong direction, the NYSPHSAA proposed Tuesday that high-risk winter high school sports be delayed until 2021.

According to, the NYSPHSAA’s updated return to play document suggests a Jan. 4 start date for high-risk winter high school sports, pending state approval. Low and moderate-risk winter high school sports are still expected to begin official practices on Nov. 30.

Guidelines issued by New York in July classify basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheerleading as “high-risk” winter high school sports. The “low-risk” sports include bowling, gymnastics, skiing and swimming and diving. Those sports are allowed to begin competition once minimum practice requirements are met.

“The NYSPHSAA membership has expressed concerns pertaining to the increase in infection rates,” NYSPHSAA executive director Zayas said in a statement. “Minimizing risk and exposure to COVID-19 is a top priority of the association. We continue to make these types of decisions based upon readily available information and communication with state officials.”

RELATED: Connecticut postpones winter high-school sports until mid-January

Until New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes an official ruling on the NYSPHSAA’s proposed Jan. 4 start date for high-risk sports, nothing can move forward. The governor has yet to weigh in on the proposal.

“It’s the best possible case scenario,” Section 1 executive director Todd Santabarbara said of the Jan. 4 proposal for high-risk sports. “If we have authorization. That’s still the question.

“For those who started the fall (season), it has been extremely successful. If we get through our regional tournaments locally, we’ve been very fortunate. The reality is, the landscape is quickly changing. Schools are navigating it and understanding what it could mean if we go into the yellow or orange zone. That has shifted the focus back to keeping the doors open in schools.”

Individual sections would determine end dates for the winter season once it begins. Plans for a state championship tournament remain on course, but are subject to change. If high-risk winter sports do indeed begin on Jan. 4, that would allow for at least five or six weeks of regular-season competition, followed by a brief postseason tournament. Basketball, hockey and cheer squads must complete six practices before they are eligible to begin competition. Wrestling teams must complete a minimum of 10.

“I’m just keeping my head up and praying we have a season,” Ursuline girls basketball star and Notre Dame recruit Sonia Citron said. “With all of the uncertainty, I’m hoping that we do get to play on Jan. 4. I’m really looking forward to my senior season with Ursuline and being with my teammates again. I’m hoping that it happens and I’ll try to stay positive. All of my teammates are ready. We really want to play this season and right now I think we’re more excited than nervous to get on the court and continue from where we were last year.”

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