Staff report
The Covid-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 spring high school sports season and there has been a lot of uncertainty about whether fall sports will actually be played. The NJSIAA took a step toward alleviating those fears today with the announcement of four sports seasons for the 2020-2021 school year.
Confused? Here’s how it breaks down — and these seasons are subject to change based on any changes in the state in terms of coronavirus infection rates.
The NJSIAA Sports Advisory Task Force released its Return-to-Sports Plan today and it creates four seasons instead of three, with the major change being fall indoor sports such as girls volleyball and gymnastics will be moved to February preseason with their seasons beginning in March.
For the fall season, football, soccer, field hockey, girls tennis and cross country are slated to begin practicing on Sept. 14, with girls tennis kicking off regular-season competition on Sept. 28. Cross country, field hockey and soccer begin competition on Oct. 1 with football following on Oct. 2. Girls volleyball and gymnastics will now begin preseason in what is now being referred to as “Season 3″ on Feb. 16, 2021, with competitions beginning March 3.
Now, if things change and fall sports get postponed, football, soccer, cross country, girls tennis and field hockey get folded into the girls volleyball and gymnastics starting date of Feb. 16. Regular-season games in all four seasons will be reduced, as will championship seasons, and most of the games for teams will be against local schools to limit travel.
Here’s more from the NJSIAA’s statement on Twitter this morning:
All of these dates are subject to change based on guidance from the Governor and Department of Health. The Sports Advisory Task Force was guided by a set of principles that take into account the unique circumstances that we all are living through. Their goals were to ensure health and safety; promote participation, not championships; limit travel; and stay flexible in the face of changing circumstances. With these principles in mind, schedules will be condensed, competition will be local, out-of-state competition will be prohibited (unless a waiver is granted for exceptional circumstances), and post-season play will be limited and local, with no statewide championships.
“We’re extremely appreciative of the support and guidance from Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Paul Sarlo and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly,” said NJSIAA COO, Colleen Maguire. Our kids need structured activity, and we believe that education-based high school sports is the best way to provide it. Giving teenagers extra motivation to stay COVID-free promotes healthy outcomes for everyone.”
Because there are now four seasons, the winter sports season will be shortened. The NJSIAA said it wanted to give every opportunity for more games for spring sports teams, who were denied a season in 2020. Winter sports will now begin practicing on Dec. 2, games begin Dec. 21 and the season will end on Feb. 3, 2021. The postseason will start Feb. 5 and be over by Feb. 17, whereas normally it runs into the second week of March. Starting dates for spring sports will be announced at a later date.
In other news, according to nj.com a Pleasantville High student athlete has tested positive for coronavirus and school officials are asking anyone who has come in contact with that athlete to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school property for practices. Also according to nj.com, the West Jersey Football League, which is comprised of 96 teams throughout South Jersey, is now down to 93 teams competing in the fall as Trenton and New Egypt joined West Windsor-Plainsboro as teams opting out of competition this fall.