Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Gov. Wolf Strongly Recommends No School Sports or Youth Sports until 2021 – Where does that leave high school football?

The Wolf administration left the decision about whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two up to the individual school administrators and school boards. Apparently, that suggestion also applies to sports.

The governor’s office released the following press release regarding school and recreational youth sports. The Wolf administration is strongly recommending that school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1 to protect children and teens from COVID-19 – but it is only a recommendation, not an order or a mandate, made by the Department of Health & Education.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Education today jointly recommended that Pre-K–12 school and recreational youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021, to protect children and teens from COVID-19.

The administration is providing this strong recommendation and not an order or mandate. As with deciding whether students should return to in-person classes, remote learning or a blend of the two this fall, school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports.

Highlights of the recommendation to pause youth sports until Jan. 1, 2021:

    • Applies to team and individual, school and non-school recreational youth sports;
    • Includes competitions, intramural play and scrimmages;
    • Continue conditioning, drills and other training activities on an individual basis;
    • Does not apply to collegiate and professional sports;
    • Gathering limits remain unchanged – no more than 25 persons may gather indoors and 250 outdoors.

The administration is updating existing sports guidance to reflect this recommendation.

Immediately following the release of the Wolf administration recommendation on sports, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) issued this statement:

Today, Governor Wolf issued a statement of strongly recommending no interscholastic and recreational sports until January 1st. We are tremendously disappointed in this decision. Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics.

The Board of Directors with the PIAA will meet Friday afternoon to review the action. At that time, they will have an official statement.

Who will ultimately make the decision for fall sports in T/E? School board and/or administration? PIAA? Will the parents of the players have a say?

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  1. I think this sucks. These kids have been busting there butts and now the seniors most of them will never play again

  2. Smart move by the governor. Yes, kids will be disappointed. But this is a time when EVERYONE needs to suck it up for the much greater good. I’m concerned enough what will happen when in person schools start up again, even part time. There will be some amount of community spread everywhere, so how much will it take to shut in person classes down again? It will happen, or should, at least we can have a large majority of the population having received an effective vaccine.

  3. No way I see football this fall at Stoga. I know someone who is on the team, and the start of practice has been pushed back two weeks until basically the start of school. They also have to go through some sort of “heat acclimation period” prior to playing their games. Unless the PIAA is willing to have its state championship games deep into December, there just isn’t enough time. Additionally, if there is play then there will be a cap on the number of people who can be in Teamer. The number I believe is 250. If you count all the football players for both teams, coaching staff, police/EMT, school staff, and the marching bands, that 250 figure is exceeded. Who is going to be left out, and who makes the decision? Not every football player plays a snap – in fact I bet it’s less than half – so perhaps the JV kids aren’t going to be on the sidelines…..but if that’s the case, then doesn’t the whole purpose of having a season get diluted a bit? Looks to me as if the school is kicking the can down the street a little bit, hoping for some good news….but with the growing realization that there will be no season. And if we’re thinking about the health of everyone, it is the right thing to do to cancel. Terrible for the seniors – some of which didn’t play at all as underclassmen.

    1. Stoga Football was NOT pushed back two weeks yet at all. That is not true. As of right now, we start officially on Monday Aug 10th as planned unless the PIAA tells us otherwise today. I run the Booster Club for Stoga Football and there was no two week delay announced at all. The practices in July were optional. I believe these kids should play and if there are parents who do not want their kids to play they can stay home. Again, as of right now, we have NOT postponed football two weeks. I really do not like false information being put out there.

      1. Nope, not false information, and your narrative of false information distribution is stale.

    2. Per the PIAA the fall sports season is delayed two weeks. Official practice starts Monday August 24th

  4. I think the football parents should chill out and stop acting like the sun rises and sets on their children. Since March , countless groups of people have gotten the rug pulled out from under them – brides, grooms, seniors, college kids with internships, potential Eagle scouts, senior citizens, those losing health insurance, laid off employees trying to feed families – perspective people!! I will quote my high schooler “football players will get what they want, they always do. They are treated like royalty and act like babies and bullies” Chew on that for a moment.

    1. I want all of our kids to have choices for ALL activities period, sports, the arts, scouts, everything.

  5. T/E Anonymous Parent & Perspective Please,

    There was never any talk about school sports this Fall being anything like it was before – football with a marching band, etc. Nobody has that expectation.

    There are guidelines that have been issued and school sports and recreational sports have been operating within those guidelines with success. Many Fall sports have been getting together at Conestoga for workouts for the last month or more without issues. These workouts have been a godsend for these children.

    Football is not the only Fall sport at Conestoga. There are 10 offerings. Each and everyone can be adjust their practices and games to stay within the guidelines and operate safely.

    Perhaps many of these sports can primarily practice with some intramural scrimmages. Many children would be thankful for some activity.

    1. Nope, not missing the point.

      Football has already had some issues, don’t believe the prior posts alleging there wasn’t any as they were self-serving. Not sure about the other sports, but it’s foolish to believe there won’t be issues. Golf can probably exist without a high probability of illness, not as convinced about soccer, football, and field hockey. Think of all the player contact. These are kids, we must parent. Original post from Michael is correct in that it’s a shame for the seniors, but the alternative of proceeding under the guidelines you suggest is a weak and dying one. And there’s zero chance the District undertakes the potential legal liability. Zero.

      The Governor is going to bring the hammer down and make the decision for all of us anyway. Politically, that’s what I believe the District and School Board is praying for, so they keep their hands clean.

  6. Michele,
    I thought it was up to T/E admin and school board to decide about the district’s sports this fall, not PIAA. A quick google shows that Pittsburgh School District (based on Wolf’s recommendation) is postponing all fall sports until 2021 and Norristown School District decided to postpone fall sports last month. (I’m sure there are others, these two PA public school districts came up first.)

    If PIAA decides today to move forward with fall sports, I believe that T/E admin and board would still have the power to postpone. Is your understanding otherwise?

  7. With Friday’s PIAA release pausing activities until Wolf can elaborate, they are calling Wolf’s bluff! He recommends canceling but did not mandate. They are throwing it back on him to make the decision and he won’t! Previous guidance has said it is permitted and he left it up to PIAA and school boards. Teachers unions wanted him to mandate virtual school for Fall but he did not. If school is allowed to be in-person with restrictions, why not sports? Blow back would be HUGE, especially in part of the state where there few cases. In Chester County, cases are trending down…

    1. I’m not sure it’s safe to say cases in Chester County are trending down. They are lower than the highest point but are now bouncing and down. Besides, it’s not just what’s happened in the past, it’s what our actions today (or in September), mean for the future. Every time things loosen up, cases go up.

      In terms of plans that PIAA may have, plans don’t work if they’re not followed through. This weekend, I saw a softball tournament in Wilson Farm Park. I don’t know that I saw any of the players, coaches or officials wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Players were huddled together, and coaches leaned over talking to them. I’m sure there were some following proper protocols but they had to be few and far between.

      Today, I saw a baseball game at the park. Again, none of the players or coaches wore masks or practiced social distancing. Players huddles together in the field and in the dugout. A few of the officials did wear masks.

      They probably weren’t under PIAA rules but it doesn’t give one optimism that people will be careful. I do put more responsibility on the adults than the kids.

      1. I’m in Wilson Park 2 to 3 Times a week. I saw the same girls softball tournament and I and my friends made the same comments as “concerned about the fall”. Not only were players and coaches not wearing masks, huddling together, not practicing social distancing, there were many fans watching the tournament doing the same thing. As we rounded the corner, we came upon a game of cricket with players on both teams behaving as if they were immune to the virus. No masks, no social distancing, huddled together on benches and in the dug out. It was stunning. All were grown men in their 30’s and 40’s with uniforms on. Most walkers at Wilson Park wear masks. Radnor Trail——different story——no one wears a mask and few social distance. Walkers runners and bikers.

  8. If school is virtual only until the end of September, that means no one can be in the school, that includes locker rooms, team rooms, bathrooms, gyms, or weight room. How are the teams suppose to do without those?. For away games you have to put all the athletes on buses, the district is promoting parents driving kids to school when and if we do begin hybrid or in school instruction, so we are going to put teams on buses?. What if the PIAA decides to allow sports to go ahead as scheduled, and you have an individual district decide not to do sports, now you have the possibility of your schedule being downgraded. Spring sports were impacted for there seasons, it sucks for the students, no doubt, but they survived, and so will the fall sports if cancellation happens. Would parents be willing to sign a waiver releasing the district of responsibility if a student would become I’ll? Remember, all it takes is one athlete to get sick, and then the whole team, and all exposed to him/her, for the season to be impacted. If you child’s health worth the risk?

    1. You make some good points regarding logistics – thank you. Yes, what would happen to team schedules if you have some districts postponing fall sports and others going forward.

    2. I agree. Priority should be 1. Health and safety 2. Education then 3. Extra curricular. Kids will survive one year without sports. Parents need to calm down.

  9. The Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences voted not to play. In making its decision, the Big Ten said it relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
    “Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” Morton Schapiro, the chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University president, said in a statement.

    We’lll see if the ACC and SEC follow suit. I think these decisions will affect every level of play.

  10. Big East joins Pac-12 and Big 10 — postpones fall sports season.

    Don’t see how there will be Sports this fall.

  11. There is a lack of consistency in how things have been decided recently – and perhaps this will continue into the near future. That said, it’s hard to envision how a school district will allow fall sports and activities if these major university conferences have already decided not to.

  12. I still say….I don’t know how the district can say they have health and safety concerns, which have now pushed back hybrid instruction in schools, at least until the middle of October, but they are going with a decision to allow fall sports! The governor recommended no fall sports, but we are going to go with the PIAA decision to allow fall sports. There’s a big surprise, the PIAA, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association, wants to allow fall sports…Wolf administration said on Friday, “every gathering outside the classroom jeopardizes schools ability to resume in person instruction because it increases the risk of super-spreading events”. The PIAA also made a request for liability protection, that’s shows how comfortable they are with there decision to allow fall sports.

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