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PIAA will consider relaxing 15-practice requirement for winter sports teams

CHRIS HARLAN
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
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Will the PIAA let athletes skip practice?

Many administrators, coaches and players certainly hope so.

Currently, rules require all teams to complete 15 preseason practices before starting regular-season competition, but the PIAA board on Tuesday will consider reducing that number to 10. If not, that practice requirement could become a hindrance for teams that got a late start.

"This change is reflective of some areas of the state moving to a later January start," according to the PIAA proposal, "and if we use the standard 15 preseason practices, they will probably not be able to get much of a season completed."

All teams will be required to hold at least four practices after the shutdown ends. But this updated policy would help those schools that barely got started before the shutdown.

"If schools started practice, they need to complete a combination of practices to get to 10 before a contest is played," the PIAA wrote.

For example, if a team completed two practices before the shutdown, that team would need to complete eight additional practices after the shutdown before beginning competition.

Central York, for instance, got in just three practices before the pause. If the 15-practice rule remains in place, the Panthers could not play before Jan. 18.

The teams that completed six or more practices before the shutdown would need only the minimum four after.

There's an exception for sports that require the use of off-campus facilities such as bowling, swimming or rifle. They would need only five practices in total.

The PIAA on Tuesday will discuss the status of winter sports in the midst of a three-week shutdown ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf's administration to mitigate coronavirus spread. The statewide "pause" of interscholastic and recreational sports started Dec. 12 and ends Jan. 4, if the governor doesn't extend it further.

The PIAA has traditionally resisted reducing the preseason practice requirement as a safety precaution.

Teams that completed their 15 preseason workouts prior to the governor's shutdown are required to hold only four additional practices once the shutdown ends, under a PIAA policy adopted Dec. 9. Yet, unless the PIAA acts Tuesday, others must still complete their 15 practices.

Some coaches and administrators had questioned the logic behind that discrepancy. Why must one team practice 15 days and another only four when both sat for three weeks?

The PIAA board on Dec. 9 added a shutdown policy for teams that miss more than seven consecutive days of practice.

Now, if a team is idle for more than a week, it must have at least two practice days before rejoining competition. A team idle for more than 10 days needs three practices. A layoff longer than 14 days now requires four practices.

However, the board left the 15-practice preseason rule in place.