By Gregg Sarra
Long Island's high school sports winter season is scheduled to begin on Monday when low- and moderate-risk sports — boys and girls bowling, boys swimming, boys and girls fencing, girls gymnastics and boys and girls winter track — are allowed to begin practicing based on the state's return-to-play guidelines.
High-risk winter sports — boys and girls basketball, wrestling and cheerleading — remain indefinitely postponed by the state. The high-risk sports cannot begin until Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issues guidelines for those sports to resume. Calls to the governor's office for comment were not returned.
"We can’t wait to get going and get some sort of semblance to make high school sports relevant again," said Tom Combs, the executive director for Section XI, which governs Suffolk’s interscholastic sports. "Our schedules are out. We also gave the schools the flexibility to play contests on Sundays if weather causes any disruption."
Long Island's public schools have not had any competition since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams will need the state-mandated six practices before they can play an event. According to Combs, the first date for games to begin would be Jan. 12.
Suffolk and Nassau counties are planning to play an eight-week winter season.
Nassau County's Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli also is eager to see teams back to playing sports.
"We’re excited to get started and some schools are choosing virtual meets in track and swimming with scoring on the honor system," he said.
"I coached winter track in the '80s and it was an outdoor sport," Combs said. "We braved the elements as it was part of the challenge."
No spectators will be allowed at winter events in either Nassau or Suffolk.
The Catholic League has been practicing since the state allowed it on Dec. 7. According to Joe Minucci, the director of athletics at St. Anthony’s, the CHSAA will start playing events on Jan. 11. The Catholic League played lower- and moderate-risk sports in the fall, which included boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, girls swimming and flag football.
What are the low- and moderate-risk winter high school sports?
Boys and girls bowling
Boys and girls fencing
Boys and girls winter track
When can practices and games begin?
For the public schools in Nassau and Suffolk, practices can begin on Monday, Jan. 4, and games will begin on or about Jan. 12.
For the Catholic schools on Long Island, practices began on Dec. 7 and games will begin on or about Jan. 11.
What about the winter sports the state deems higher-risk?
The higher-risk sports -- boys and girls basketball, wrestling and cheerleading -- are postponed indefinitely and cannot resume until the state issues guidelines for a return to play.