High School Sports: Who’s on First?
<BY LEIF SKODNICK>
It’s been seven months since athletes from Rye High School played a game, and that last one was memorable.
The Garnets Boys’ Basketball team’s 74-55 win in the Section 1 final back on March 8 marked the program’s first Gold Ball since 1989 and the school’s fourth sectional title – along with championships in Boys’ Soccer, Football, Ice Hockey – of the school year.
And then, less than a week later, the Garnets cagers were slated to play Section 9 champ Johnson City for a chance to go to the state semifinals in Glens Falls, only to have the game postponed and ultimately cancelled as the escalating coronavirus pandemic cancelled the remaining NYSPHSAA winter sports championships.
Not long after, school became remote, spring sports were cancelled, and we began the arduous march towards wherever we are now.
Where are we now, anyway?
We’re in a marginally better situation now than we were back in late March. And by marginally, we mean that the kids are being educated in-person and remotely, unless, for health reasons, they’re learn remotely full time, and that’s about all. All that stress, all the worry, all the wariness and precautions and social distance is still there; we’ve just learned to deal with those, if only a little better than we did seven months ago.
In the meantime, all those athletes who would’ve played a spring sport lost a season. Seniors in the class of 2020 lost their opportunity to play their final spring season, to build memories, to win a championship in baseball, golf, lacrosse, softball, tennis, and track.
Hell, they lost their opportunity to even have a normal graduation. And those who didn’t graduate have suffered the stunted growth that remote learning and cancelled seasons bring.
By “we’re in a marginally better situation now”, at least some athletes are practicing, largely for the sake of practice. In what felt, at least to me, like the height of athletics-during-a-pandemic absurdity, my wife, a private high school field hockey coach, put goalies through footwork drills via Zoom from our guest bedroom last week. We were both working from home because our son had a cough and so we had to get tested for Covid-19 before going back to our respective workplaces and schools. Field hockey is deemed a medium-risk sport, and as of right now, her team doesn’t have any games on the horizon.
This weekend, we could – maybe – see competition begin in what Governor Cuomo has termed “lower risk” and some “moderate risk” sports. According to the Southern Westchester B.O.C.E.S. website, competition in Girls’ Soccer, Boys’ Soccer, Field Hockey, Girls’ Tennis (boys play in spring), and Cross Country will begin October 10, provided teams have had at least ten practices. If all goes as the B.O.C.E.S. website says, Rye Neck Field Hockey will face Putnam Valley and Rye Girls’ soccer will visit Mamaroneck at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Hope springs eternal.
High-risk sports, like football? Not this fall, it would seem, at least not in New York State. Other states like New Jersey, which has largely had the same restrictions on gatherings as New York, are playing football.
That new field at Nugent Stadium, when it’s finally finished, will have to wait a while to get broken in under the Friday night lights. For the first time since 2004, when Rye was in Class A and Harrison in Class B, The Game will not be played. At least not this fall.
We all miss the games, sure, but who misses the games (and The Game) more than the athletes and their classmates? For all of us in the stands, it evokes memories made years ago, for the players on the field, it makes memories they carry for a lifetime.
Back in March, after John Aguilar’s hoops team had taken the Gold Ball back to their locker room in the County Center, after the fans had gone home and the only people left were the people who haunt press boxes in empty arenas, the Oscar Madison-types with mustard stains from hot dogs eaten long ago still clinging to their only-somewhat-fashionable clothes, I filed my photos and folded up my computer, figuring I’d see a few of them at the Garnets playoff game against Johnson City a few days later.
“See you guys after we all get out of quarantine,” I quipped as I made for the exit.
Where are we now, anyway?