BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — 12 days before high school sports were set to begin practice across the state, New York State High School Athletic Association made the move to delay the high risk fall sports season to the spring.
Now, high school football, volleyball, and competitive cheer are set to start their seasons on March 1st, and those seasons will end on May 1st. The typical spring sports seasons will start on April 16th and go through June.
The move by NYSPHSAA leaves coaches and athletes alike disappointed.
“We’re disappointed that we’re not able to play, but with that said, we have a definite date in mind now and we can actually hopefully start getting with kids, getting workouts in, and treat the fall as an offseason that we normally would have in the spring,” South Park head football coach Tim Delaney said. “Some of that will get tricky, weather will play a part in how much we can do in the offseason in December, January and February, but at least there’s a goal in mind. Now our Section can hammer home a schedule and make a plan for what football in March and April will look like.”
Even though high school programs now have a definitive date set to begin to play, questions still remain. NYSPHSAA announced that football programs can begin offseason workouts on September 21st, but that they will have to be open to the entire student body, and cannot be mandatory. Non-contact practices throughout the fall are fine, but what happens when teams have to start preparing to play in the middle of a Buffalo winter?
“Hopefully basketball plays, and even then gym space is limited. We already don’t have a ton of indoor facilities across the area that are turfed that people can use. We’ll have 70+ teams looking for that space,” Delaney said. “It’ll get tricky, but I feel like throughout Western New York we have a lot of really good football coaches and programs that will do anything they can to make sure they’re ready for March 1st.”
Another issue athletics are facing right now is the disparity between school districts and the way they are returning to school in the fall semester. Buffalo Public Schools are fully remote, while some districts are doing more of a hybrid system. Without the ability to physically see their student-athletes in person, it’s increasingly difficult to not only bond as a team, but to get everyone on the same page when it comes to preparing for the season.
“One of the biggest issues for our program particularly and the five city programs is that kids aren’t in school. It’s the same thing that we’ve faced since all the way back in March,” Delaney said. “We’re not getting that day-to-day face time with the kids, that interaction, they’re not in the building getting their workouts in after school, all those things, and those things are continuing. Other programs are probably seeing their kids at least a little bit with different hybrid models.
“For us, specifically, that’s one of the biggest hurdles. We’ve all had thoughts and plans, but now that there’s an actual day on the calendar that it looks like we’re going to start, now we can really nail home what we want to accomplish over the next few months.”
As disappointing as it is to not be playing football under the Friday night lights in the fall, Coach Delaney is trying to look on the bright side by preaching to his players the chance to make history when the season comes around in the spring.
“Kids across the area initially are still in shock that we’re not going to line up and play as the NFL gets ready to play tonight and there’s been some college football games and other high school games televised. Now as programs lay out their plan to their kids and their parents, I think it’ll just become part of their normal routine to think about that spring season that we’ll have. We’ve prided ourselves in being the first in a lot of things, and that’ll be our calling card all offseason, can we be the first spring divisional champ sectional final game, all those things that we’ll talk about, and that’ll put a little emphasis on that. Then all the kids that are not seniors, are we playing two football seasons in the span of seven, eight months? That’ll bring up other challenges that aren’t brought up currently because we’re still just talking about playing the 2020 season in the spring of 2021.”