North Salem Basketball, Ice Hockey and Wrestling athletes may now have a chance for a season
North Salem athletes who compete in basketball, wrestling, and ice hockey may be able to salvage their winter season and begin competitive play as early as February 1. Late Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office directed local health authorities to decide whether schools within their regions should hold a season after accounting for local transmission rates of covid-19. Previously, high risk sports were not permitted to play.
North Salem varsity basketball coaches Matt Mackenzie (Girls’ Basketball) and Chris Regan (Boys’ Basketball) expressed cautious optimism at the news. “I am thrilled that the state has made progress toward allowing student-athletes to participate,” said Mackenzie.
Regan anticipates that the upcoming week will be a busy one for administrators and coaches as they rush to coordinate registrations, medical approvals, meetings and planning. “We really don't have a clue what to expect as far as games and competitions go, and will plan our practices based on the most recent guidance from state and local officials,” he said. If a season does happen, Regan anticipates lots of restrictions for players, fans and officials.
For the past month, Mackenzie has been running modified workouts for the girls’ team in accordance with guidelines previously issued by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA). Players had to use their own individual ball at their own individual hoop, with masks on at all times. “It certainly looked different than a typical basketball practice, but at least it was an opportunity to keep the girls engaged in the game,” he said.
One factor that local health authorities must consider when deciding whether to authorize competitive play is whether a more transmissible variant of covid-19 has been identified in the area. At his Friday coronavirus briefing, Gov. Cuomo said two more cases of the UK variant of the virus had been confirmed in Westchester. To date, 25 cases of the new variant have been confirmed statewide.
On Saturday afternoon, Westchester County Executive George Latimer tweeted, “working with other County Executives in the Hudson Valley for a joint announcement for HS sports since we’re all in Section One together.” Section One includes school districts in Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam and Rockland counties.
The North Salem Booster Club said in a statement, “we are excited about the prospect of the athletes being able to play. We are still waiting for the final determination by the county and the final decision from Denise Kiernan (NS High School Athletic Director). We are here to support the student athletes no matter what their seasons look like.”
The NYSPHSAA said it will release an updated Return to Interscholastic Athletics resource document for schools on Monday.