Legislators urge state to OK all high school sports
Area state reps call on Cuomo to immediately reopen sports programs
ALBANY — Local state legislators are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to let high school sports sidelined by COVID-19 return to competition.
Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R-Caledonia) announced she is sponsoring new legislation to compel the state departments of Education and Health to allow all interscholastic sports programs to resume this year. The assemblywoman said sports programs would include proper COVID-19 safety protocols similar to those implemented already in schools, such as mask wearing.
“If thousands of fans can gather safely to watch the Buffalo Bills — and as a Bills fan, I am so glad they were able to — then we can allow our children to begin safely participating in the youth sports programs that are so crucial to their development,” said Byrnes. “Not only do youth sports programs help our children’s bodies grow stronger but they help develop leadership skills, critical thinking, teamwork and good sportsmanship — qualities our country needs now more than ever before.”
Byrnes also noted how sports and exercise can be an outlet for the stress and anxieties of teen life, as well as to help implement a greater sense of self confidence.
The assemblywoman is encouraging members of the public who support the legislation to join her in signing a petition calling for the governor to use his executive powers to immediately reopen sports programs.
Other Republican state legislators in the area, including Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblymen Chris Friend and Phil Palmesano also urged the governor to ease restrictions on high school sports.
In a joint statement, O’Mara, Friend, and Palmesano said, “Governor Cuomo focused his State of the State message this week on the need for reopening our local economies and to start getting the lives of New Yorkers as back to normal as possible now. For New York State’s high school student-athletes and their families, coaches, and entire school communities, that means to let sports seasons get started. We are confident that the Cuomo administration, working in close partnership with local education and health officials, have the capacity to ensure this safe return of these student-athletes, the sooner the better.”
In early December, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) indefinitely postponed “high risk” sports including high school basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheerleading. All state winter sports tournaments were also cancelled.
Fall sports previously deemed high-risk by the state and postponed, including football and volleyball, are scheduled to resume on March 1 as part of a “Fall II” season.
O’Mara, Friend, and Palmesano sent a letter to the governor and other top Cuomo administration officials that reads, in part, “These students have invested many years of discipline and training to maintain their physical fitness and to compete on behalf of their school districts and communities. For many, their involvement in sports is a critical part of what has made them attractive candidates for future colleges and scholarships. The continued hiatus puts all of this at risk.”
The letter notes that New York is one of only seven states prohibiting high school sports.
“Given the fact that a number of sections and leagues moved and delayed the start of their sports seasons to January 2021, we highly encourage you to adopt a realistic, comprehensive and evidence-based model which would allow all student-athletes to safely resume their sport NOW,” states the letter. “At this point, New York is a stand-out for the wrong reasons, as it is one of only seven states prohibiting sports such as basketball at the high school level, despite it being played safely with proper protocols throughout the country.
“The Southern Tier has proven to be a leader in the state by having one of the lowest positivity rates by exercising the policies and procedures established by the Health Department. Our student-athletes ask for guidance from the state to allow all winter, fall and spring sports to start in the Southern Tier and throughout New York State. We know that doing so will provide an outlet and great enrichment to student athletes patiently waiting for their turn to play.”