While schools districts in multiple Sections across New York State were able to begin low risk fall sports this week, districts in Section 4 were not. The start date for fall sports in Section 4 was moved to March 1st and the beginning of winter sports practices to November 30th and competition to January 4th. With local student-athletes not having been able to take the field together since March, parents, coaches and students have signed on to a petition to let them play. 

Maureen Singer, a mother of a local senior student-athlete, started the petition “Section 4 Let Them Play”  that has garnered over 800 signatures in a week. The goal is to give students the opportunity to get back on the field ASAP. 

“It’s a tough sell to say you can’t participate in golf, tennis, cross country when our conditions are favorable for that,” says Singer. “We understand the ramifications and protocols that need to be in place under our current conditions with COVID-19. But it seems like the stage was set for that.”

Binghamton University Health and Wellness Professor, with a background in Nutrition and Sports Medicine, Sarah Thompson, who is also a parent of a senior student-athlete, says the guidelines handed down from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (which can be seen here) provided a pathway for a safe return to play. 

“If we look nationally and also in New York State, we have implemented guidelines and protocols that are absolutely safe,” says Thompson. “We haven’t seen any widespread outbreak.”

Troy Humphrey, a Chenango Valley lacrosse and wrestling coach and Susquehanna Valley football coach says it's been tough seeing districts locally not given the same opportunity to play. 

“It’s frustrating,” says Humphrey. “I’ve got varsity players looking to play in college asking hey coach why can’t we practice when people are practicing in Pennsylvania and other parts of the state and their travel teams can practice.”

Another concern discussed is getting to the beginning of 2021, and having the plan to play all 3 seasons back to back get shut down. 

“My biggest fear is that you push this off until January 4th which is the height of flu season,” says Thompson. “These kids have had their spring season cancelled, fall seasons postponed, why can’t we do at least low and moderate risk athletics. The potential is that it still can be cancelled and that’s the question we don’t have an answer to right now.”

Ultimately, Humphrey says the biggest reason to return to play is for the mental health of student-athletes. 

“Consensus is around the section that it’s not about finding out who the champion is,” says Humphrey. “It’s not about winning games it’s about being able to help our student-athletes during this difficult time. Being isolated from them and them being isolated from their friends is just making the situation worse.”

“I really think there needs to be some better communication and reasoning why this decision was made,” says Thompson. “I think that the school districts individually need to do their best to provide opportunities for our kids to stay engaged, connected and hopeful.”