Local school districts are preparing for a full slate of fall sports, which unlike last year are expected to actually take place in this autumn. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still with us how will the games look as they return over the next few weeks? And what will participation be like?
Due to the pandemic, most athletic seasons for the 2020-21 school year were moved and shortened, with some schools declining to participate in “high risk” sports like football, wrestling and volleyball. The Fall 2 season took place locally during March 2021 and thanks to protocols designed to keep students as safe as possible were largely a success. At that time, schools were still easing their way back to in-person class; this fall, districts are hoping to leave remote learning behind, and to welcome back a measured sense of normalcy. And that includes sports.
According to their listed schedules, districts like Kingston, Saugerties, New Paltz and Onteora are offering their usual fall sports, with the season officially getting underway around a week before students return to the classroom on Tuesday, September 7.
The Kingston City School District’s first regular season games are varsity and JV field hockey openers at Dietz Stadium on Wednesday, September 1. Over the following week, football, cross country, girls’ swimming and diving, volleyball, girls’ soccer, and girls’ tennis will return, with boys’ soccer underway as of Wednesday, September 8. Varsity and JV programs began practicing on Monday, August 23, with modified teams getting underway on Thursday, September 9.
Rich Silverstein is the director of physical education, health and athletics in the KCSD, the largest school district in Ulster County by a great margin. Last week, Silverstein said the fall season will unfold with guidance from the Ulster County Board of Health, Section IX Athletics, and Superintendent Paul Padalino. According to Silverstein, some of the safety measures teams are taking this season include face shields on football helmets; and masks on cheerleaders, volleyball players, and unless they’re in the pool, swimmers. Spectators will be allowed at all fall events except swimming, which will be live-streamed; for indoor sports in Kingston spectators will have to remain masked.
Silverstein added that athletes and spectators will not be temperature checked, but athletes will wear masks on sidelines, benches or during halftime. Venues will include a separation of all spectators from athletes, a practice implemented during the Spring 2021 season.
“Our numbers look very strong in terms of athletes trying out for our two levels and (we’re) excited to get started next week,” Silverstein said.
The Saugerties Central School District and New Paltz Central School District open their fall seasons together when they face off in boys’ varsity golf at the Rip Van Winkle Country Club in Palenville. The SCSD will then introduce both girls’ and boys’ soccer, girls’ tennis, volleyball, and on Saturday, September 4 varsity football when the Sawyers travel to Rondout Valley for non-league play. Cross country will also follow soon.
“We will have a full slate of fall sports,” said SCSD Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt during a virtual reopening town hall on Thursday, August 18. “We’re very excited.” Reinhardt added that the district plans to add stand-up ventilation units to its locker rooms and will restrict the number of athletes in each locker room at a given time to 10.
The district’s Athletic Director Dominic Zarrella said Saugerties will strictly follow guidelines from the Section and all protocols will be observed. “We discussed high-risk sports but we didn’t consider canceling them,” said Zarrella last week. “The students in those sports are excited, as football and volleyball have tremendous student interest. The football program numbers are outstanding with about 120 students (in grades) 7-12 registered to play.”
Volleyball players and spectators will wear masks as it’s played indoors.
“Our administration has been tremendously supportive in trying to supply everything we need,” Zarrella said. “The community is stoked and so are we.”
In New Paltz, volleyball and girls’ soccer quickly follow boys’ golf with season openers taking place on Wednesday, September 1. Boys’ soccer, girls’ tennis, girls swimming and diving, football and cross country are also on the Huguenots’ fall slate.
The Onteora fall sports season gets underway on Tuesday, August 31 when the boys’ golf team hosts Mid-Hudson Athletic League opponent Spackenkill at Woodstock Golf Club. The Eagles will also participate in field hockey, girls’ and boys’ soccer, girls’ tennis, volleyball, football and cross country.
The Fall 2021 sports season is scheduled to run into early November.