(The Center Square) – Fall school sports resumed Monday after a two-week delay amid ongoing discussions with Gov. Tom Wolf over whether it was safe to proceed.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) said Friday it would leave the decision up to local districts, many of which had already developed robust social distancing plans meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff.
“PIAA is committed to providing a season for all sports and all student-athletes in the upcoming school year and will continue to remain flexible,” the organization said Friday. “The PIAA Board of Directors also voted that based on local school decisions, the PIAA will monitor school participation in fall sports and may pursue alternate solutions, if needed”
The decision comes after public urging from students, parents and state legislators to move forward despite statements from the governor that schools shouldn’t resume sports until next year.
“As a parent, grandparent and former coach, I know school sports and extracurricular activities are more than just fun,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre. “They are a chance for students to gain confidence, learn from life-changing mentorships and find motivation to achieve more academically.”
He went on to thank PIAA for its “deliberate examination of all the consequences of canceling fall sports and coming to this just outcome.”
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, agreed with the PIAA’s decision, saying Friday “we are a ‘can do’ society.”
“The PIAA has spent the summer consulting with medical professionals and others in order to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive plan that would allow these kids to safely play,” he said.
“Today’s decision gives school districts and parents the green light to choose to proceed with fall sports for their students – many of whom have been left without structure and positive purpose for the last five months,” he added. “School activities and sports play an essential role in children’s mental health and well-being. I am happy the PIAA recognized the need for these kids to have normalcy back in their lives during such difficult times.”
Wolf blindsided athletic officials earlier this month when he told reporters that the administration believed no sports should be played until next year as the pandemic showed little sign of slowing down at a national level. The PIAA had released its guidelines for fall athletics in late July, with football heat acclimatization scheduled to begin Aug. 10 and practices set to resume Aug. 17.
“It is clear to the PIAA, the unintended consequences of cancelling fall sports need to be further reviewed,” the association said of the governor’s statements. The PIAA’s Sports Medicine Authority Committee also agrees “strict adherence” to district-adopted policies should provide a “reasonably safe environment,” the association said.