Section XI Still Hopeful For Spring Season

Section XI is following the recommendation of President Donald Trump and Governor Andrew Cuomo and telling spring sport athletes to remain home until April 29, but the governing body of Suffolk County athletics is still hopeful for a spring season.

“If we can come back in the beginning of May, we are fine,” Section XI Executive Director Tom Combs told Newsday. “Even the middle of May is OK. I don’t know all the answers, but I’d say if we come back June 1, we’re done.”

Combs said Section XI has plans for four different start dates, beginning April 29, which is the day to which the governor’s school closure has been extended. The only stipulation is spring sports require at least six practices before competition begins. Ten practices are mandatory for baseball teams. Combs said the rules were made considering the health of student-athletes.

Section XI Executive Director Tom Combs presenting a school of distinction award to Westhampton Beach Union Free School District Athletic Director Kathy Masterson. Independent/Courtesy Section XI

“We are optimistic that if we do come back to school this year that our student athletes will have an opportunity to participate in an abbreviated season,” Section XI said in a statement April 9. “Let’s do our part to flatten the curve and stay home and stay safe.”

To keep active and distracted, some teams, like members of the Shoreham-Wading River girls soccer team, have created practice videos where the teammates can be seen virtually passing the ball to one another. The Center Moriches softball team started a challenge on TikTok, and displayed similar simulated hitting and fielding.

In an effort to build a championship culture during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rochester-based Gates Chili Central School District Athletic Director Patrick Irving shared an open letter with advice.

To advance his programs, the athletic director is celebrating and connecting student-athletes currently missing their spring season, refocusing the budget, continuing education through National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association webinars and other local professional development opportunities, and starting to complete tasks on his district’s to-do list he hadn’t previously had time for.

“To start, it is important to have coaches continue to connect with their student-athletes,” Irving said. “Second, this unfortunate situation has created an opportunity. With school closures, my budget is not currently being spent on transportation, athletic training, strength and conditioning services, officials, game supervisors, and more. Once reports are run and athletic administrators know what funds they will have at their disposal, they should begin gathering quotes for purchases that will advance their program and celebrate the student-athletes of the district. It is important that when we do return to normalcy, we do it with a bang.”

He’s looked into buying windscreens on fencing with his school’s logo, banners for his gymnasiums, window decals for families, shirts for three-sport athletes, fitness center updates, new uniforms, light pole banners, scoring tables, and floor mats.

“Educators should always consider students first,” Irving said. “Personal understanding and continued education are great ways to improve your programming in the immediate.”

He said items that can be checked off a to-do list include creating a wall of fame, organizing stakeholders, rereading athletic handbooks, improving student voice, establishing a coach’s corner workshop so they can learn from one another, adding a club, updating record books, and reviewing the athletic department’s website.

“Not all these suggestions will be a possibility for every athletic administrator, especially because there are funds tied to many of them,” Irving said. “But simply checking in with your student-athletes will remind them and their families that your athletic department is about community and their overall education. Lead by example and start sharing different posts and emails that simply recognize those student-athletes and their families. In times like these, challenge yourself to think differently.”

When it comes to the future of our spring championships, the New York Public High School Athletic Association will have more information on or before April 27.

“At this incredibly difficult and unprecedented time, the focus has to be on your health and keeping your family safe,” the New York Public High School Athletic Association said in a statement. “We continue to follow the guidance to health care officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo when it comes to social distancing, returning to the workplace, and what this means to school districts. Until then, please be safe and practice social distancing. Stay home and stop the spread.”

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