DIAA board to reconsider fate of fall sports today

Dad, Ron Navarro, left, signs paperwork for his daughter Jasmyn to play field hockey as coach Frank Victory looks on at Caesar Rodney High School on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

As with most kids, the toughest part of the pandemic for Delaney Gennusa is feeling cut off from her friends.

A junior at St. Georges High, she plays both field hockey and lacrosse for the Hawks.

“It makes me sad that I don’t get to see my friends as much as I used to,” Gennusa told the DIAA sports medicine advisory board during its public session on Tuesday night.

“Sports would greatly help. I would be able to see my friends every day. And without field hockey and lacrosse, I would never have met the people that I call my closest friends now.”

That’s the kind of argument parents and others have made for bringing back high school sports now rather than later.

On the other side, school and athletic administrators have said, chiefly, that if most Delaware schools don’t have students physically in class right now, how can they justify the work and cost needed to bring back just student-athletes?

CR Athletic Director Bob Beron gives a student instructions on filling out paper work to be able to possibly play sports this fall at Caesar Rodney High School on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The matter may finally get decided once and for all when the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association holds its monthly meeting for September today.

The online session is slated to start at 9 a.m. The public can listen in on the proceedings at https://publicmeetings.delaware.gov/Meeting/66592.

The DIAA voted 15-0 last month to suspend the fall sports season until the late winter and spring. Under the current plan, the scholastic sports seasons would begin in December with each of the three — winter, fall and spring — then being played with condensed, six-week regular seasons.

The state Board of Education later OK’d that plan.

“The current environment is too unstable for me to put my coaches and students in harm’s way,” board member Audrey Noble of Frankford said before voting to approve the measure.

“I realize this is a hard decision … but I could not live with myself if someone from my school contracted the virus because I thought it was a good idea to play sports.”

The biggest change since then is Gov. John Carney’s announcement last week that football can be played in the state if players wear masks during competition.

On Tuesday, the sports medicine board said it is recommending that most other sports — including fall sports field hockey, boys’ soccer and volleyball — also have their athletes required to wear masks.

If sports are going to be played this fall, the board recommended a three-week preseason for all sports except football, which would have a four-week preseason.

While some athletic programs in the state have been holding preseason workouts, others have not. Most non-public schools in the state have started thee school year with students in the building.

“It’s going to be harder for players who haven’t been doing much during the summer,” St. Georges football coach John Wilson said last week. “I feel bad for those coaches. They haven’t been around their kids for six months. … There’s a lot of people out there who do not feel prepared for this I’m sure.”

Wilson is president of the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association, which helped persuade state officials that the sport can be played following certain regulations.

For many school administrators, though, the question remains, do they have the resources right now — in personnel, budget and time — to follow all the required guidelines. And those issues could become bigger if other extra-curricular activities push to start back up.

“I think what is going to limit us is the availability of having enough trainers and the finances associated with it,” Dr. Michael Axe, the chairman of the DIAA sports medicine committee, told WDEL.com. “I think schools can be safe, too, but the investment is a big one.

“If they only have so much COVID money, where do you put your money? Remember sports are not a right, they are a privilege.”

Judging by the comments posted on a social media group, though, many parents see no good reason why their children shouldn’t be back on the fields and courts this fall.

Of course, most student-athletes think they should be playing, too.

“I wake up on a game day and text my teammates, all excited for the game later,” St. Georges’ Gennusa told the board on Tuesday. “It is something we look forward to and makes the day go so much better.

“Just imagine how bored we are just sitting in a virtual-learning classroom all day. Looking forward to a game or practice would definitely make it go a lot better.”