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PIAA OKs fall sports -- Decision to participate in hands of each school

High school teams across the commonwealth held official practices this week after the governing body of interscholastic sports in Pennsylvania voted in favor of moving ahead with the fall sports season.
In a 25-5 decision last Friday, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) announced it was permitting teams to begin practices on Aug. 24, with first contests for football, cross-country, girls and boys soccer, field hockey, girls volleyball and water polo slated for Sept. 11. Golf and girls tennis matches can begin as early as Aug. 27 and Aug. 31, respectively.
The start of the fall sports season had been postponed two weeks to allow for review and consideration of Gov. Tom Wolf’s recommendation that no youth sports be held until at least Jan. 1, 2021.
“As the health and safety of students is paramount in moving forward with athletics, the board believes that through each member schools’ adherence to their developed school health and safety plans and the PIAA Return to Competition guidelines sports can continue,” the PIAA stated after reaching its decision Friday.
While the PIAA has cleared the way for sports to begin, the decision on whether student-athletes will participate in activities this fall is ultimately up to each school district.
Members of the Colonial League, which includes Palisades, voted 8-5 to delay the start of league contests for soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball until Sept. 18 and league football games until Sept. 25, although schools can opt to schedule nonleague football games prior to that date. Golf and tennis matches and cross-country meets will start on the dates given by the PIAA.
The Suburban One League schedule had not been released as of Tuesday, though at least one of its member schools, Cheltenham, has opted out of participating this season.
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the suspension of fall sports for its area high schools on Monday. Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Reading public school districts have also canceled the season.
“After much careful thought, consultation, and prayer a decision has been reached that all of our high schools will opt out of participation in interscholastic competition for the fall 2020 season,” the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future stated in a news release. “We recognize that this news is disappointing to many of our students, families and coaches, particularly our seniors. It saddens us greatly as well. We recognize the value of athletics as part of our educational philosophy that seeks to provide for the holistic formation of young men and women of character. This is not the scenario any of us desired.”
The Penn-Jersey Athletic Association, whose members include Solebury School, has also elected to suspend sports this season.
“Our plan is to resume league competition no earlier than January 2021 and to provide an interscholastic athletics experience for students in all sports by developing three abbreviated seasons during the remainder of the school year,” PJAA President Joe Spera said.
The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association upheld plans last week to proceed with outdoor fall sports while postponing gymnastics and girls volleyball to spring.
Practices for New Jersey football, field hockey, soccer, girls tennis and cross-country teams can begin Sept. 14. Tennis matches start Sept. 28 and the opening day for football is Oct. 2. Competitive play for all other fall sports will kick off Oct. 1.