Some Voorheesville sports to start Sept. 21

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Sports like soccer that are deemed a moderate risk for transmission of COVID-19, will not be played at Voorheesville this fall, as originally planned. On Sept. 18, the Colonial Council, of which Voorheesville is a part, decided to move moderate-risk sports to what is being called fall sports season II, planned for March.

NEW SCOTLAND — With guidance from New York State in hand, Voorheesville athletes on fall sports teams deemed a low or moderate risk for transmission of COVID-19 will be allowed to start practice on Monday, Sept. 21. The start of high-risk fall sports — cheerleading, football, and volleyball — has been moved to fall sports season II, slated to start March 1

On Sept. 18, after this story had gone to print, the Colonial Council Athletic League believing it “essential to err universally, on the side of caution,” announced that it would be moving the start of moderate-risk sports —  boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and girls’ swimming and diving — to fall sports season II.

“This late announcement is due in part to ensuring all aspects of athletics and student athletes’ safety was assessed, with input from as many school district representatives as possible before coming to a final decision,” the letter from the  Colonial Council Athletic League states.

During the Sept. 14 Voorheesville Board of Education meeting, the school board was updated by Athletic Director Joseph Sapienza about the upcoming fall sports season.

Sapienza told the board that there is a 10-day practice requirement for sports — except for golf — so games won’t start until October, and that competition will be all in-league. 

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association canceled state championships for the fall season, Sapienza said, and Section II has canceled its fall sectional championships. But the Colonial Council is still trying to have some kind of culminating event for students “to look forward to,” he said.

 Sapienza said modified sports would not be run this fall, but seventh- and eighth-graders would be allowed to try out for junior-varsity teams; tryouts start Monday. 

The emphasis on varsity and junior varsity has to do in part with school resources, Sapienza said.

For example, athletes still have to adhere to the district’s social-distancing transportation policies, so there may be a need to split a single team across two buses. There’s also a shortage of officials, and Sapienza didn’t want to run events without referees. 

As for fall sports, Sapienza told the board:

— Varsity girls’ tennis will play 12 matches;

— Varsity golf will have 16 matches;

— Girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer will play 10 regular-season games followed by a league tournament, which will be an additional six games;

— Girls’ and boys’ junior-varsity soccer will play a 10-game schedule;

— Girls’ and boys’ varsity cross-country will have five meets; and

— Swimming and diving is a Suburban Council sport in which Voorheesville is merged with Guilderland — the team is called Guilderville; the athletic director didn’t have that schedule.

There are also sport-specific state guidelines for how to run events, Sapienza said; for example, cross-country has staggered starts, limits on the number of competitors in a heat, and how many teams can be at a meet.

Event management is going to be a big deal, Sapienza said, which is one reason that the upcoming seasons will be all in-league as the school districts in the Colonial Council “work intimately” with one another. Sapienza said he’ll need to be in really good communication with Voorheesville’s opponents. For example, state guidance said opposing teams have to consult with one another 24 hours in advance to coordinate screenings, plans for contact tracing, attendance — which will be limited to two attendees per athlete, Sapienza said. 

He also noted that three schools — Cobleskill, Watervliet, and Laningburg — are not proceeding with fall sports. While he wouldn’t say specifically which school or schools, Sapienza said the decision not to play fall sports is partially a financial decision, due to the state withholding 20 percent in school aid.

Board member Rachel Gilker, reading through the state guidance — which states masks are to be worn by players unless the player can’t tolerate wearing a mask — said that is language that could be open to broad interpretation. 

Sapienza said she was right; it is being interpreted by different people in different ways — he interprets it as: You need to wear a mask when you are playing soccer. He said it’s been a topic of discussion and the league is split over whether his is the correct interpretation of the guidance.

“I’m trying to get our league all on the same page that we have to wear them,” Sapienza said.

Gilker asked if it were possible that Voorheesville only compete against other schools willing to wear masks. Sapienza said it is possible, adding, “And it’s all things being discussed — all day, every day [and] all night.”

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