By Roger Rubin
Better late than never.
The long-awaited fall sports season for Long Island’s public schools might be arriving six months late — and not actually in the fall — but it is upon us and begins on Monday with the first practices.
In both Section VIII (Nassau) and Section XI (Suffolk), there will be football, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, girls tennis and girls swimming. Section VIII also will have boys and girls volleyball and boys badminton. Section XI also will have boys golf.
For some of these student-athletes, it will be the first time competing for their schools since 2019. And Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said this weekend, "I can’t wait to see the kids back out on the fields."
The COVID-19 pandemic that forced Sections VIII and XI to hold off on sports back in August continues and its impact was felt during the recently concluded winter sports season. State health officials have kept sports classified by risk of infection and the Nassau and Suffolk Departments of Health have implemented their own rules.
In Suffolk, as was the case in the winter sports season, there will be weekly testing for those participating in high-risk sports, including football and volleyball. Nassau doesn’t require testing and has left it to the school districts to make such decisions.
Section VIII has opened the door for a limited number of fans to attend contests — inside or outside — but has the left the final word to the school districts. Section XI is expected to announce its policy on fan attendance this week.
Neither county allows postgame handshake lines.
The boys and girls basketball seasons did get off the ground, but there were plenty of cases in which players or entire teams had to pause or shutter because of positive test results and the ensuing contact tracing.
"Even though there were incidents, I came away from the basketball season feeling it was successful," Pizzarelli said. "While it’s true that some programs only got three or four or five games, they at least got to participate. In the current circumstances, that was the big goal."
Football games are not expected to start until the weekend after next as 10 practices are required before competition can begin. Many other sports, in which the required number of practices is six, can begin games early next week.