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Coaches relieved to have a start date after change for high-risk sports

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(WBNG) -- When the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced high-risk sports would be moved to spring, coaches were relieved to finally see a start date in place.

"The first reaction I had was, you know happy we had some sort of guidance," said Susquehanna Valley football coach Mike Ford.

"Maybe it's a sort of silver lining in a cloud," said Candor volleyball coach Pam Quinlan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's original guidance limited high-risk sports (football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading) to practice beginning September 21.

NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said that was a big reason they made the decision Wednesday night.

"Student-athletes were going to start practicing in those high-risk sports without truly understanding when they were going to be able to participate in games," said Zayas.

Zayas said athletes who play high-risk sports now have a higher chance to have a quality season.

"If we can afford those student-athletes to play just a few games in the spring, I think we've accomplished our goal," he said.

Quinlan agreed, and said her team wants to compete in matches.

"I think they would practice anyway but competition is what sports are all about," she said.

The school year will have four sports seasons. With fall season II and the spring season facing at least a two week overlap, coaches are concerned athletes will be forced to choose between two sports.

"A lot of small schools you have multi-sport athletes and each sport really depends on each kid to come out and participate and play and give you the numbers you need," said Quinlan.

It is up to individual sections to determine if athletes can participate in two sports at once. While it may be a difficult balance, Ford said it's a challenge he thinks athletes would be more than happy to take on.

"More opportunities for the kids to enjoy the sports they've played their whole lives would be great, no matter how we have to rework the schedules," he said.

With the season six months away, Ford and Quinlan are still waiting to see when they'll be able to begin team practices.

"I am hopeful we can at least do some time of open gym," said Quinlan.

"This hopefully gives us the opportunity if they allow us to have strength and conditioning program starting the twenty-first or at least over the winter to progress to that, but the kids will be in a much better physical conditioning coming into that kind of season," said Ford.

Dr. Zayas said high-risk sports are allowed to begin practicing September 21, as long as they follow the Department of Health's guidelines.

Nicole Menner

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