Arianna Millan has been playing softball since she was 3 1/2, and was looking forward to playing her last season at H. Frank Crey this year. But now she won’t be able to, as athletic directors and school superintendents announced on April 21 that the spring sports season would be cancelled.
“It’s still hard to put it in my head that I won’t have my last season of high school,” said Millan, who has committed to playing softball at Wilmington University next year. She said she hopes schools will hold a tournament game to make up for the missed season when the pandemic ends, adding, “Hopefully, better days are ahead.”
In their decision last week, Nassau and Suffolk county school officials cited health and safety concerns as the coronavirus continues to spread. “Long Island is one of the areas most affected by this terrible pandemic,” Nassau County Executive Director Pat Pizzarelli explained, “so both Section VIII (Nassau) and Section XI (Suffolk) have made this very difficult decision.”
Administrators in both counties met over a 24-hour period beginning on April 20, and felt it was important to react sooner rather than later. Even if public schools reopen, no sporting events will be held.
A week earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended New York’s stay-at-home policies through May 15, meaning that school buildings will be closed until at least that date.
“It’s very sad for the seniors, but we are dealing with life and death,” Pizzarelli said. “We have to safeguard our students and communities. We waited as long as we possibly could to make this heartbreaking decision.”
Nassau County’s Athletic Council — which includes superintendents, principals and officials — met the night of April 20, and was unanimous in its decision. Athletic directors met the following morning, and were in total agreement.
Elmont and Carey athletic officials, meanwhile, said they understood the decision, but were disappointed by it. The teams were already forming when schools closed in March, and seniors on Carey’s girls’ softball team were excited to be senior leaders and captains, according to Coach Anthony Turco. He said he thought the council made the right decision in cancelling spring sports, but it was “unfortunate.”
“This is something that was taken away through no fault of [the students’] own,” he said. “It’s really heartbreaking.”
The decision means parents will also miss out on the opportunity to see their kids play, Doug Robins, the varsity baseball coach at Carey, noted. “I feel bad for them not watching their kids play,” he said. “It’s such a shame.”
There were going to be 13 boys on the team this year, he said, and they had already picked out their pitchers and catchers. “We had a strong team,” Robins said, “a good group of kids.”
He added that he hoped the boys will have an opportunity to play travel baseball over the summer — although Turco said “who knows” what’s going to happen with that — and Elmont Athletic Director Chris Agostino said he thinks “playing sports is going to heal this whole thing” because the students could spend some time outside and get some exercise.
There may also be repercussions for next year’s teams, as Carey girls’ lacrosse coach Nicole Kaye said, “I think our whole world is going to be different.” But, she said, “We’ll adjust and overcome.”
Kaye has been telling the seniors on the team to “Be happy and look back on all the memories you’ve made.” Last year, she said, the girls’ lacrosse team made it to the playoffs, and were undefeated in the conference.
They were going to start this year in Conference III, and senior Kelly MGrath said it was “super devastating” that they would not be able to play this year.
But, she said, she remembered her favorite Kobe Bryant quote, “Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise,” and said, “Coronavirus is a chance for us all to rise.”