December 2, 2021

Spring sports decision by April 27

Executive director of state association addresses impact of coronavirus

Various sports balls/equipment stock

Like everyone else, New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas is currently working from home.

“It’s been a little difficult,” Dr. Zayas said. “I am checking my e-mail constantly and trying to help with seventh grade math. If you can look past all that’s happening, it is nice to enjoy some free time with your family. My son was getting into track and my daughter was doing gymnastics. Add the travel time for games and practices plus carpooling etc, my wife and I have been really busy. We usually were eating dinner at nine p.m. It’s been a change as everything didn’t just slow down, it came to a screeching halt.”

Unlike the rest of us, Dr. Zayas is in constant contact with his staff, all the section directors in the state and monitoring the latest updates from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump. He needs to know what going on statewide to determine what will be the next move by the NYSPHSAA that will affect every student-athlete.

“We always budget conservatively for our state championships,” Dr. Zayas said. “Usually it’s a snowstorm during the state tournament or it could be a fall or spring weather event, but it’s never been anything like this.”

The “this” is the COVID-19 virus that finally forced the NYSPHSAA to cancel the winter championship tournaments for basketball, ice hockey and bowling. The spring championship are still on hold with a decision due by April 27.

“We will make our decision on spring sports closer to Apr. 27,” Dr. Zayas said. “We know President Trump has an Apr. 30 social distancing plan in place for now. We don’t want to make any long range decisions because the situation changes every day. We do plan on having the spring championships at this time.”

That decision will be scrutinized when it is made as was the decision to first postpone and then cancel the winter championships.

“We went with the state and national lead in regards to mass gatherings when we first made the decision to postpone the winter championships,” Dr. Zayas said. “The NBA was the first to suspend things, then the NHL, NCAA, Major League Baseball and everyone else was following suit to suspend stuff. Of course, the NCAA would then cancel winter championships and now spring championships. We saw everything that was happening and thought it would be inappropriate for us to go on. A lot of things transpired by the time we made the decision to cancel. There is never an easy answer that we make that will make everyone happy.”

While Dr. Zayas has not faced this problem as the Executive Director of the NYSPHSAA, he did see a similar situation as an Assistant Director in New Mexico.

“We had to cancel the spring season in New Mexico during the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009,” Dr. Zayas said.

As for the spring season in New York, there are many options being discussed, but one very important domino must fall first.

“That first domino is when will the children to allowed back in school,” Dr. Zayas said. “Once that happens, a lot of other things can proceed. We are looking at many different options and scenarios from a full season, a shortened season and possibly having the state tournament after final tests are concluded and after graduation. A lot depends on that decision as to when schools reopen.”

Dr. Zayas passed along this message to all the senior student-athletes.

“I’m holding out hope to have some kind of spring season,” he said. “I know the athletic directors want that, the section directors want that and I know the student-athletes want that.”

For now, everyone stay safe. We know that the student-athletes, the parents, the coaches, the athletic directors and fans of high school sports are itching to return to normalcy. Know that Dr. Zayas and the NYSPHSAA want the same thing. When they made the decision on spring sports, it will be the best decision for everyone.