High-risk high school sports get green-light from county executive


Pelham Examiner file photo

Current and former PMHS varsity basketball players Carlo Volpe, Stefano Grammatica, Kevin Coleman and James Carey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said high-risk high school sports including basketball, ice hockey and cheer may go ahead on Feb. 1, but delegated the final decision to county executives. Westchester County Executive George Latimer cleared way Wednesday in a joint statement with other leaders in the Hudson Valley.

“Today, I stand with my fellow Hudson Valley county executives in support of sports resuming in schools,” Latimer said in the statement. “To be clear, there will be protective protocols in place, and these additional precautions are to protect the athletes. But I am in favor of providing our children with some normalcy so that they can begin to heal from this horrific pandemic. The resumption of sports will be important for the continued development and mental well-being of our young people—we must never forget them in the decisions we make.”

The move applies to high-risk sports in all seasons, including football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, martial arts and competitive cheer and dance.

While high-risk winter sports will be the first to prepare to play, Pelham Memorial High School has two low-risk sports already in action. Both swimming and indoor track have been practicing and participating in virtual meets for about three weeks. Pelham Athletic Director Christian Hodge said that there have been no issues regarding Covid-19 for either team. As was true for fall sports, athletes are required to wear masks at all times, besides in the pool.

High-risk sports must follow the same mask mandate that has been in place all year, and tryouts will be one of the many things that will change.

“We will be using multiple gyms and we will have to keep the numbers to the criteria” set by the Westchester County Department of Health, said Hodge. No one will be allowed in gyms besides players, coaches and a small group of school staff for games and practices.

Scheduling for the high-risk winter season is still in development. It is expected that there will be a four-week season. No sectional playoffs have been discussed, and state championships were preemptively cancelled in December. Opponents will be more region-based than in the past as well. 

Pelham has yet to have any major Covid-19 issues in the sports program in the fall or winter sports seasons. 

“Overall, I thought (the fall) went fine,” Hodge said. “We were able to get games off, had a lot of participation and not really many issues.” 

Winter sports being indoors provides a much greater challenge than in previous seasons. However, there is some optimism around the administration that the season will have as few issues as possible with safety measures in place.