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Five Towners sound off on waiting to coach or play sports

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Nassau County High School student-athletes will likely have to wait until 2021 to compete in sports.

At an emergency meeting held Aug. 26, Nassau school superintendents voted to postpone high school sports until Jan. 4, becoming the first of the state’s 11 sections to move its fall season. The following day, superintendents released a letter stating they may reassess the decision prior to Sept. 20.

“I believe other sections will follow and pull the plug, but I can’t speak for anyone else,” Section VIII (Nassau) Executive Director of Athletics Pat Pizzarelli said Aug. 26. “We felt strong enough to make this decision now,” he added. “We took the cautious route, but we believe it’s in everyone’s best interests. There are too many unknowns.

“It’s just not time to allow kids to play sports,” he continued. “And my first and foremost concern is the safety of our student-athletes.”

The decision came two days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued guidance permitting lower-risk high school fall sports (soccer, tennis, swimming, field hockey and cross-country) to begin practice and play on Sept. 21, while noting football and volleyball could begin practice but not play.

However, the superintendents did not consider the current conditions safe enough to conduct any fall sports. The seven-person committee of Nassau County officials voted unanimously to postpone.

“It was never a consideration to try playing even the lower-risk sports,” Pizzarelli said. “Transportation is a big issue. There are a lot of issues.”

The plan, Pizzarelli said, is to play all three sports seasons between January and June, when, hopefully, the threat of Covid-19 has decreased. He said Section VIII will create its own contingency model and aim to limit season overlaps to one week at the most.

“We’ll look to get started Jan. 4 with the traditional winter sports, including basketball and wrestling,” Pizzarelli said.

Jason Supple, Lawrence High School’s head football coach, said it’s going to be a long fall and winter for his players. “It’s going to be important for student-athletes to stay in shape over the next four months,” he said. “A silver lining that can be taken from it is our players have the opportunity to focus solely on academics during this time off from athletics.”

Hewlett boys’ soccer coach Nick Lacetera said he looks forward to the start of the season every September. “I feel like we should be giving it a go,” he said. “I enjoy being around the kids and coaching, so it’s disappointing.”

Each sports season will be condensed, running approximately nine weeks. The fall sports will be played in the second season and spring sports would be third as usual. Last year’s spring season was nixed March 16, after just one week of practice, due to coronavirus.

Hewlett senior Alessandra Borsellino, who plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse, is planning to compete in all three seasons regardless of the overlap. “I’m playing soccer in college but I also want to play competitive basketball and lacrosse one more year,” she said. “I’m worried we may not play at all, but I’m also hopeful.”

Thomas Rincon, a senior at Lawrence, plays volleyball and baseball. “I would rather be playing in the fall but I’m not surprised at all about the decision,” he said. “I usually get bored in between seasons, so I’ll be ok going right from volleyball to baseball in the spring if that’s what happens.”