The Nassau Superintendent Committee, made up of five superintendents in Nassau County, recently voted unanimously to postpone all school sports until Jan. 4, 2021. This decision has led with blowback from students, parents, coaches and athletic director across the county.
It also comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo set out certain guidelines for school sports returning, including designations of risk for each sport, a return date of Sept. 21 for low and moderate risk sports and Oct. 19 for high risk sports.
Manhasset School District Athletic Director James Amen says the decision by the superintendent committee “created a firestorm.” With the decisions out of his control, Amen must now prepare his school for a six-month period in which all three seasons of sports will be played. Winter sports will start in January, with fall sports two months later and the last two months of school will be spring sports.
“I would have liked to have seen sports begin on Sept. 21,” Amen said. “The low risk sports like, golf, tennis, badminton and bowling, give them a shot.”
Amen has many questions regarding how sports will work during a pandemic, but they are mostly built behind frustration and a lack of guidance from the top. He wants answers, but he’s also willing to be a part of the process so the athletes can get back on the field. He recently sent a letter to Cuomo after boys lacrosse was listed as high-risk sport.
“Boys lacrosse is listed as high-risk, the reason being was the faceoff at the midfield line and the body contact,” Amen said. “Lacrosse is one of the few sports that where nobody touches the ball except the official. The players are wearing equipment like gloves, shoulder pads and arm guards. My suggestion to the governor was to take the face-off out. Do it like basketball, have one face-off or flip a coin [to see who gets the ball].”
Amen is not only concerned about boys lacrosse, but also the designations of other sports his school offers. Soccer was designated as a low-risk sport. Yet on set pieces, like a corner kick, there could be anywhere between 14 to 18 players tightly close together.
“I don’t quite understand how some of the determinations for these sports were made,” Amen stated. “You’re saying that basketball is a moderate-risk sport. Why isn’t it a high-risk sport? Have you ever seen five guys go up for a rebound?”
There won’t be any state championships this year and there might also not be any Nassau County Championships either. While Amen would love for there to be championships, he understands that you’re going to have to make compromises in a world of unknowns. What he wants most, above all else, is to get the kids back on the field.
“I would love to have [state championships], but I’m not sure we can have one in an abbreviated calendar sports season,” Amen said. “Let’s get kids back to the field of play, back into the gymnasium for however a period of time for their season. It could be eight weeks, it could be 10 weeks, it won’t be the same type of season that it has been in the past. Perhaps you won’t have non-league games, there won’t be travel outside of your section and you won’t have tournaments.”
To play interscholastic sports during a pandemic and do it safely is a task that will not be slightly easy to accomplish. There are going to be health risks, but Amen also sees emotional and social risks as well if sports are not played.
“[I’m worried] about the social and emotional welfare of these kids that are being deprived of not participating in a sport.” Amen said. “Don’t misconstrued me, I feel the pandemic and COVID-19 are very serious. We’re talking about reopening schools and I’m concerned as a grandparent, teacher and administrator if it is going to be safe. I’m 77 years old, I’m primed to get it.”