EDITORIAL: Two recommendations to help us safely navigate rest of spring sports season
- The COVID-19 pandemic has caused numerous spring prep postponements.
- As a result, the York-Adams League has canceled spring league tournaments in five sports.
- The move was made to allow time for postponed events to be rescheduled before district play.
The York-Adams League made the absolute right call last week when it announced that it would not hold postseason spring tournaments in baseball, softball, boys' volleyball, boys' lacrosse and girls' lacrosse.
The reasoning behind the decision was rock solid.
Because of the multiple postponements caused by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, there was just no way to make up the many events that need to be rescheduled and still have enough open dates remaining to fit in the league tournaments before the District 3 playoffs began.
For better or worse, it’s a fact of life in Pennsylvania high school athletics competition that the district and state playoffs take precedence over everything else, including league tournaments.
Something had to give, and that something was the league tournaments.
To our way of thinking, however, there are two more steps that should be taken by the schools and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association over the coming weeks.
Do away with nonleague events: First, the individual schools within the York-Adams League should make the call to do away with nonleague competitions through the end of the regular season.
The COVID-19 pandemic is simply refusing to go away quietly, and now more young people are getting sick. That’s likely caused by the increasing number of variants that are emerging and the fact that young people are not yet vaccinated.
Given that background, it would seem prudent to limit high school activities where possible, without taking the drastic step of completely shutting down those activities.
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Stopping nonleague competition would limit the number of contact points where the coronavirus could possibly spread.
Eliminating the nonleague events would also open up some dates to reschedule the many postponed league events that need to be made up. That should certainly help to alleviate the stress being felt by athletic directors these days.
Some coaches, players and parents will almost certainly grumble that eliminating nonleague events will take away valuable opportunities for teams to measure themselves against outside foes and compile ratings points in the district qualification process.
There’s no denying that.
Still, these are unprecedented times and the utmost caution must be taken. Eliminating nonleague contests certainly seems the prudent thing to do. Eliminating the nonleague games wouldn’t prevent teams from winning league regular-season titles or competing in districts or states.
Use the win-or-go-home model for district play: Additionally, the PIAA should revert to the postseason plan it used in the fall and the winter. The governing body for high school sports in Pennsylvania should use the win-or-go-home model that seemed to work well in the previous two seasons.
Consolation games or matches should be eliminated in district play. That would again limit the number of games played and thus limit the risk of COVID-19 spread.
It’s not a perfect solution. The history of PIAA sports is littered with teams that went on to win state titles after suffering district defeats. Under the format used in the fall and winter, such runs could not happen.
At the moment, however, there aren’t any perfect solutions. We are living in a very imperfect world right now.
The top priority should remain the health and safety of our young people, without completely denying them the opportunity to compete in sports. That is especially important for this year’s seniors, who were completely denied their spring seasons a year ago as juniors.
Eliminating nonleague contests and using the win-or-go-home postseason format are the smart and safe moves.