Local coaches try to remain positive, focused after delay in York-Adams winter sports season

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • The York-Adams League winter sports season has been delayed until Dec. 18.
  • League basketball teams will be limited to 18 regular-season contests.
  • The league's basketball playoffs and swim meet will not be held this season.
Dallastown head coach Mike Grassel, back center, is shown here in a file photo watching his team play against Red Lion. Grassel's Wildcats won't play any games before Dec. 18 this winter. The York-Adams League has decided to delay winter sports action a week, from its original Dec. 11 start date, because of the recent COVID-19 surge.

The games might not look or feel the same, but as of now, winter sports athletes can still fill out their calendars with the dates of upcoming contests.

It might be smart to use a pencil, though, because more changes could be coming.

In response to the recent COVID-19 surge, York-Adams League executive director Chuck Abbott confirmed in a Monday email that the league’s members approved a one-week delay for winter events until Dec. 18. That is one of  the many updates to the league's normal winter plan. The events were scheduled to start Dec. 11.

Basketball teams will be limited to 18 regular-season games, but can schedule contests with nonleague schools. Previously, basketball teams could play 22 games. Wrestling will be limited to 18 competition points. Abbott added that there will be no Y-A basketball playoffs or league swimming meet.

The elimination of the high-profile, and highly-attended, basketball playoffs and league swim meet was done to allow maximum scheduling flexibility before the District 3 playoffs start.

Additionally, only home fans will be allowed at events, with the number of spectators permitted up to the individual schools.

Just more than a week ago, Gov. Tom Wolf's office released new gathering limits, with a 10% occupancy limit for indoor venues featuring a capacity up to 2,000. There is a 5% occupancy limit for indoor venues with a maximum capacity between 2,000 and 10,000.

“We’ll do anything to play some hoops,” Dallastown boys’ basketball coach Mike Grassel said. “We’ll take two games, we’ll take 18. I just want to see our guys do what they enjoy doing."

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The Y-A League’s decision to delay comes as neighboring New Jersey was forced to pause its scholastic winter sports season until January after an order from the governor, citing outbreaks because of indoor sports. Other District 3 leagues, such as the Mid-Penn Conference and the Lancaster-Lebanon League, have also opted to modify or delay the schedules for their members.

Winter sports practices were permitted to start on Nov. 20 and teams have to complete 15 practices before starting to compete in events.

COVID-19 surge continues: The latest COVID-19 case update on Tuesday for York County saw an additional 136 cases and eight deaths in the area.

The continued surge in positive COVID-19 cases across the U.S. led to recent restrictions from Wolf, that included requiring masks for all participants of indoor sports, while Wolf’s COVID-19 guidance website still strongly recommends no youth sports until 2021 — a position he first took before the fall sports season was held.

It is still uncertain whether athletes will have to wear masks while actually competing this winter.

Coach emphasizes obeying the protocols: While the teams try to prepare for a season in which they are unsure of how many games they will end up playing and on what dates they will play, coaches, such as Kennard-Dale High boys’ basketball coach Jake Roupe, are trying to keep the team as disciplined as possible with the wearing of masks and employing social distancing to prevent any issues for their team.

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“No matter how you feel about the rules and the guidelines, if you guys want a season we have to follow them,” Roupe said of his message to the players. “They have been doing really well with it. I think they’re just happy to be back on the court and be in the gym with their friends again.”

With multiple states delaying or postponing high school sports and college and professional games being canceled daily, Roupe said the players get nervous about the potential to lose their chance to play basketball, but he tries to keep them focused on what they can control.

Right now, the Rams have a game scheduled for Dec. 18, and despite all the outside noise, their focus is on getting ready to start the season with a win.

Kennard-Dale High  basketball coach Jake Roupe, left, speaks to his team during a timeout.

“They hear so many things, just like everyone else does, but I just keep telling them: ‘As of right now, that’s where we’re at and that’s how we’re going to look at it, like we’re starting on the 18th,’” Roupe said. “We can’t control the outside factors. I keep them prepared as if we’re playing on the 18th because I’m not going to assume things will get pushed back and then not be prepared when we get there.”

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Questions remain: After the Y-A League delayed the fall sports season in August, a lot of speculation surrounded the likelihood of making it through the entire season. One week after Central York finished off three months straight of football games, the same questions arise around the prospect of playing a full winter campaign.

Although things could change multiple times before Dec. 18, Grassel’s attention is on making sure the players remain positive and enjoy each minute they get to spend on the court.

“Nobody thought the fall season was going to get through,” Grassel said. “Hindsight being 20/20, I think if we had started that earlier it would have been better, so it is what it is. The big thing is for these kids and heck for me, I need to stay optimistic and have hope through this. In the grand scheme things, basketball is small, but it’s something we all enjoy and everybody needs a little of that right now.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.