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Fate of fall high school sports season up in air

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has delayed the start of the fall high school sports season two weeks as it continues to discuss and further reviews the Wolf administration’s recommendation that youth sports be postponed until the new year.
Official practices for all high school teams were scheduled to start on Aug. 17, a week after heat acclimatization for football players was set to begin on Aug. 10. But last Thursday, days before the latter was set to get underway, Gov. Tom Wolf said during a press conference that he recommended youth sports be delayed until at least Jan. 1 – a recommendation jointly endorsed by the commonwealth’s Department of Health and Department of Education.
In a statement released the same day, the administration said it was providing a “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.”
Disagreeing with the administration’s recommendation, the PIAA board of directors released the following statement after an emergency meeting on Aug. 7:
“Based on currently known information, the committee believes that strict adherence by schools and teams to their school-adopted plans and the governor’s School Sports Guidance should provide a reasonably safe environment for student athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics as currently scheduled.”
Delaying sports until Jan. 1 “has a potential negative impact on the students’ physical, social, emotional and mental health,” the PIAA statement said.
“These issues,” the PIAA further elaborated, “along with the financial inability of many students to participate in any other form of non-school based athletic programs affect all students directly or indirectly.”
In response to the governor’s recommendation, the PIAA board of directors made the decision to pause mandatory fall athletic activities for a two-week period until it meets again on Aug. 21. Voluntary workouts, however, may continue.
In the meantime, the PIAA said it will spend the next several days in discussion with the Wolf administration, gaining insight from state legislators and further reviewing the “unintended consequences of canceling fall sports.”
Prior to Wolf’s announcement, the Suburban One League Executive Committee made its own recommendation to push back the start of fall sports, advising a two-week regular season delay for girls and boys soccer, field hockey, golf, girls and boys cross country, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo, and a four-week delay for football.
“The recommendation is now being considered by each school’s respective administration,” the SOL said in a statement posted on Twitter last Thursday morning.
Members of the Suburban One League (PIAA District One) include Quakertown, Pennridge, Central Bucks East, West and South, and Council Rock North and South.
Also last week, members of District 11’s Colonial League, which includes Palisades, voted to move forward with the fall schedule as planned – but that decision too was made and announced prior to the governor’s recommendation.
Across the Delaware River, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) has pushed back the official start of the fall sports season one month.
Under the current plan, New Jersey schools such as South Hunterdon can hold fall practices beginning Sept. 14.
“Competition will start Sept. 28 for girls tennis and on Oct. 1 for all other sports except football, which will kick off its season on Oct. 2,” the NJSIAA said.