High risk sports start back up without spectators, schools look to streaming services for help

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EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WIVB) —  High risk sports have started back up across the state, but for some parents, they’ll have to cheer for their child through a screen.

Under New York State guidelines, high risk sports, like basketball, cheerleading and hockey, could begin playing on February 1. But Section VI, which oversees high school sports in Western New York, will not be allowing spectators in the stands due to COVID-19 concerns.

Many parents tell News 4 this is frustrating, especially since there are different rules for different teams.

Glenn Buczkowski’s daughter plays hockey for the Lancaster Iroquois Depew Varsity team, as well as on a travel team. He says he’s allowed to watch her play one day but not the next.

“The rules for travel are two spectators per athlete – some say one spectator per athlete, so there’s not even consistency there – but they do allow spectators,” Buczkowski said. “Now you have Section VI which says no spectators. Why? Where is the data? Where is the data that decision is based upon and why are you making that decision?”

Phillip Abbott tells us he’s supported his sons throughout their entire time playing hockey, whether on the ice as their coach or in the stands as their proud dad. Not being allowed to do that this year will be especially tough, he says, because his oldest is a senior.

“It’s devastating,” Abbott said. “When we were told we wouldn’t be able to to go into the rinks due to Section VI rules – not a New York State guideline – it was hard to take as a parent.”

School districts are trying to make the best of this situation by finding ways to allow parents to watch. Instead of in person, they will have to cheer their child on through a live stream.

“Every athletic director and every athletic department I’m in contact with is really working hard to find the best live streaming opportunity for parents at this time, because they do sympathize with the parents,” said East Aurora’s Athletic Director Chris Koselny. “In East Aurora we chose to go with a ‘Hudl’ program, and through ‘Hudl’ we stream to our YouTube channel, and there’s no cost to that for our fans and for our parents.”

But streaming services differ for each district. While some are free, others will have to pay a subscription fee.

Section VI leaders are planning to meet at the end of this month. Some parents have started a petition, asking the Executive Board to change their decision at this meeting to start allowing spectators back at games.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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