With the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents unanimously voting to delay the start of high school sports until January, many Lynbrook and East Rockaway athletes, coaches and families expressed their disappointment.
Maggie Bodian, an incoming senior at Lynbrook High School, plays varsiy tennis, basketball and lacrosse. Because the tennis season has been delayed until spring, it will now overlaps with lacrosse, and Bodian will have to forgo tennis.
“I’m so upset that I’ll have to give up tennis my last year at LHS,” she said. “The shortened seasons take a lot away from a team that plays together and grows together over an entire season. If we can go to school and be safe, then it should be safe for us to play sports as well.”
The decision by the superintendents was made at an emergency meeting on Aug. 26, following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that some high school sports could begin this month.
Cuomo allowed low-risk sports teams — including tennis, soccer, cross-country, swimming and field hockey — to resume practice on Sept. 21. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association had begun preparations for the fall interscholastic season. Suffolk County schools plan to begin their sports season as proposed by the governor.
Nassau County, which is designated Section VIII by the NYSPHSAA, will implement condensed sports seasons in order to fit fall, winter and spring sports into a much shorter time span. The winter sports season will run from Jan. 4 to March 13; fall sports, March 1 to May 8; and spring sports, April 5 to June 12. These dates are contingent on the status of the coronavirus in the county at the time.
“While we understand that this decision may be disappointing,” the NYSPHSAA’s website reads, “the health and safety of the student-athletes, district staffs and communities of Nassau County will always be our top priority.”
Teams will abide by state Department of Health guidelines.
News of the postponement came as a shock to many student-athletes and coaches who had hoped to return to sports at the beginning of the school year. Multi-sport athletes, in particular, are angered over the prospect of having to drop a sport because the seasons coincide. Students who play in all three athletic seasons will be committing themselves from January to June with no breaks.
The cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season, in addition to this year’s postponement, has also a negative impact on college recruitment. Athletes must commit to a school by their senior year of high school, so missing out on sports seasons prior can be detrimental.
“Seniors who want to play a sport in college will have to commit to a school before the season even starts,” said Grace Bodian, another three-sport athlete and an incoming LHS junior. “This is difficult for every athlete in their junior or senior year who are missing out on the most important scouting period.”
Vincent Tetro has coached Lynbrook girls’ varsity lacrosse for 15 years, guiding the team to the playoffs more than 10 times. He explained that the cancellation and postponement of sports would have significant consequences for high school and collegiate athletes alike.
“Colleges are letting people stay an extra year for seniors who miss their last year on the team,” Tetro said. “The rosters will be bigger than ever, making it even harder for freshmen to get on to teams. This will have a huge domino effect for recruitment and scouting.”
Tetro estimated that half to three-quarters of his lacrosse athletes played on teams outside school during the summer.
Stephen Locicero, who coaches football and boys’ basketball at LHS, said he was concerned about the lack of training over the past several months.
“These sports seasons are going to be especially hard, considering there were no summer workouts,” he said. “I miss being with both of my teams in person over the summer . . . I now use the Remind app to send mental health information, motivation, workouts and helpful information about the season to communicate with students.”
Locicero said he speaks with college coaches weekly to ensure that his athletes are still being recruited. He also sends videos of them to schools they may be interested in, in addition to letters of recommendation.
Lynbrook Athletic Director Joseph Martillotti said he was hopeful that Section VIII would revert back to its original plan and start Nassau County sports in September.
“We are still waiting to see how this plays out,” he said. “The most important thing is to get students physically back in school. If things look like they’re going well and a rise in the [Covid-19] infection rate doesn’t happen, I think we could see a start date for low-risk sports before January.”
The East Rockaway School District also plans to begin its sports seasons at the start of 2021. Updates from the district’s Athletics Department can be found on Twitter or Instagram, under the handle @GoEastRockaway, as well on its website.
“The student-athletes and coaches just want to play,” said David Barth, the East Rockaway phys. ed., health and athletics director. “However, they understand the situation and are taking it one day at a time. Our coaches and student-athletes continue to do what they can individually to prepare for the season, whenever that is.”
Tetro said the unknown was the hardest part.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen next,” he said. “The uncertainty and adaptability is going to be paramount this year. Everyone will have to be prepared to change on a dime.”