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West Hempstead High School among schools to see fall sports postponed

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Nassau County high school student-athletes will have to wait until the new year to compete in sports.

At an emergency meeting on Aug. 26, a committee of county school superintendents voted to postpone high school sports until Jan. 4, becoming the first of the state’s 11 sections to move delay the fall season.

Ed Cosgrove, head coach of the West Hempstead High boys’ basketball team, said he wasn’t surprised by the county’s decision. “The way things have gone lately about getting your hopes up and, unfortunately, being disappointed,” Cosgrove said, “I just had a feeling that January was going to be the call.”

Cosgrove, who is also an assistant coach for the Rams’ football team, said that many students play on both squads. The football players, he said, have met through Google Meets, on which the coaches have shared drills with them.

“We’ve been trying to find ways to get out there and work out,” Cosgrove said, “but we’re really limited, and we really can’t do much at all.”

Cosgrove’s son, James, plays varsity basketball at H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square, and Cosgrove said he understands some of the concerns that parents may have. “This past spring and summer really hurt student-athletes in so many ways,” he said. “My son had some virtual workouts with his team, but it’s not the same.”

Pat Pizzarelli, executive director of athletics for New York state’s Section VIII — Nassau County — said he believed that other sections would pull the plug on fall sports. “We felt strong enough to make this decision now,” Pizzarelli said. “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, and my first and foremost concern is the safety of our student-athletes.”

The decision was made just two days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that lower-risk high school fall sports — soccer, tennis, swimming, field hockey and cross-country — could begin practice and play on Sept. 21, while football and volleyball could begin practice, but not competition. Cosgrove said that while he looked forward to holding practice in-person in September, everyone’s focus should be on academics.

“If we can get through Thanksgiving, then I think we’ll have a real good chance with the rest of the year,” Cosgrove said. “Sports will be gravy if we get there.”

The superintendents said they did not consider the current conditions safe enough to conduct any fall sports. The seven-person committee voted unanimously to postpone them.

“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 now, Pizzarelli said, is to fit all three sports seasons in between January and June, when, it is hoped, the threat of Covid-19 will have declined. He said that Section VIII would 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. Fall sports will be played in the second season, and spring sports would end the school year, as usual. Each season will be condensed to approximately nine weeks.

The 2020 spring season came to an end March 16, after just one week of practice, as the coronavirus pandemic deepened.

“There are going to be protocols in place for every sport, including busing, locker rooms, athletic trainers, coaches, fan attendance — everything,” said Ed Ramirez, the athletic director in the Baldwin School District.