By S. Quinn DeJoy and J. Murrer
Jan. 20, 2021: On December 11th, when the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced that state championships were canceled and high-risk sports were postponed, it was clear that the winter sports season would have a different look. So far, only track, squash, and skiing have been given the go-ahead for the season. Unfortunately, basketball, which New York considers a high-risk sport, has not yet been given state approval to begin competition.
While the winter track teams had hoped to have a somewhat normal season, it all changed last week when New York-Presbyterian opened a COVID vaccination center at the Armory, leaving Bronxville with no home track. To salvage the season, indoor track has now become an outdoor sport. The Bronxville varsity track team will compete outside, weather permitting, and all contests will be limited to dual meets.
The ski and squash teams are also subject to pandemic restrictions. The ski team had to change their home mountain from New Jersey's Camp Gaw to New York's Thunder Ridge, and the mountain is limiting Section 1 to 100 skiers on the mountain at a time. The Bronxville squash team, which normally competes in a league that includes Connecticut teams, will hold matches exclusively against New York schools.
Many states across the country are allowing high school basketball, including neighboring New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, but Governor Cuomo has not given approval for basketball to begin in New York.
There has been a big push across the state to allow high school basketball and other high-risk sports to begin.
The New York State Athletic Administrators Association (NYSAAA) sent a letter to Governor Cuomo on January 14th, asking for basketball, ice hockey, wrestling, volleyball, and competitive cheerleading to begin immediately. The letter's opening statement is below.
"As representatives of the over 780 Athletic Administrators in New York State, we implore you to reconsider the decision to forego 'high-risk' sports for the Winter and potentially the remainder of the school year to permit play to begin immediately so these athletes can salvage a small season as some end their high school athletic careers."
NYSAAA representatives wrote that safety protocols developed by the CDC and DOH are in place and that recent scientific evidence shows that basketball and other sports deemed high-risk by New York are not a significant risk for spreading COVID-19.
In their letter, the NYSAAA stated that "There is no valid, scientific reason to assume that interscholastic sports are dangerous at any risk level. In fact, those state's health departments seem to vary on which sports are actually "high-risk" and those that are not. New York, for some reason, has a much different, subjective assessment in place."
Some senators and assemblymen in New York have also written letters to Governor Cuomo asking him to reinstate what New York considers "high-risk" winter sports.
According to state Assemblywoman Melissa Miller who represents District 20 in Nassau County, high school sports are not a safety risk to the athletes or the general public.
In a letter to Cuomo, Miller noted that a University of Wisconsin study showed that "across 207 schools, 30,000 athletes, and 20,000 practices and games, only 271 student athletes contracted COVID-19. That is less than 1%. Furthermore, of the 209 who could identify the source of infection, only one case was attributed to sports."
The Bronxville boys' basketball coach, Bobby Russo, would love to see the team back in action.
"It is such a shame. I feel awful for our kids, especially our seniors," said Russo. "They have worked so hard over the last few years with our program, and to possibly not play their senior year is breaking my heart."
Due to the pandemic, the 2020-2021 school year has been divided into four sports seasons. The winter sports season will end at the end of February, and the Fall 2 season, which includes sports such as football and girls' swimming, is currently scheduled to start on March 1st.
Photo by S. DeJoy