PIAA: A full, interruption-free spring sports season is a definite goal

The (Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)

With the one-year anniversary of the pandemic-caused shutdown of high school sports coming next week, the PIAA remains committed to getting spring sports athletes, who missed virtually their entire 2020 seasons, back on the field.

The fall and winter sports have been able to get in seasons through the highs and lows of the coronavirus crisis, albeit with interruptions and forced exits of some teams.

The winter sports athletes who are still in contention are headed for potentially their biggest and best moments in the coming weeks.

But spring sports teams, who got in only some practices and a handful of scrimmages last March before schools were closed, are a top priority.

“Everyone is committed to doing what we can to get in a full season for those spring sports athletes who lost out last year,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said after Wednesday’s monthly board of control meeting. “If they lost out on this year and they are seniors about to graduate, the last time they would have played was when they were sophomores. That’s tough to swallow.”

Lombardi said everyone has been protective concerning spring sports.

“I don’t mean just the people on our staff,” he said. “I mean everybody on the board, every athletic director or principal out there. Every mom and dad, too. They want to see their kids have the opportunity to participate. So, yes, we’re protective and we’re proud of it. We’ve given teams the flexibility to whatever it takes to start on time.”

Official practice for spring sports, which include baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse, boys tennis, boys volleyball and track and field, begins Monday.

At its February meeting, the PIAA voted to reduce the number of required practices from 15 to 10 to help teams who may be dealing with COVID-19 issues. The first date of competition remains March 26.

Lombardi said that while there are major signs of improvement with the pandemic and Gov. Tom Wolf lightened some restrictions earlier this week, there is still a need for adherence.

“We can’t drop our guard,” he said. “Let’s keep our guard up. Keep on point and keep on top of things. Keep our due diligence and if we do that, we’re going to have a very successful spring sports season.”

Lombardi added that things that have been stressed for nearly a year — social distancing, washing your hands, and wearing masks on the sidelines — remain important. If you can stay six feet apart during your competition, a mask is not needed.

The fall and winter state tournaments featured only district champions.

Lombardi said a decision has yet to be made concerning spring sports and whether the old format that also included runners-ups in some districts would be used.

“We’re going to take a wait-and-see mode,” Lombardi said. “We’re going to see what progress is made with the vaccine and see if you go back to a more regular type of postseason and a more regular type of playoff provisions so that we don’t have to reduce opportunities for young people.”

A decision on how the state tournaments will look will be made sometime in April. Lombardi added that the normal sites for PIAA championships such as Penn State for baseball and softball and Shippensburg University for track and field is still being discussed, noting each facility has a different set of pandemic-related rules.