It is long past due for the PIAA to make a move to permit organized sporting activities to begin at schools.
Youth and recreational leagues for baseball and softball opened up across the area this weekend. Meanwhile, high school athletes and coaches are still playing the waiting game.
The PIAA is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Gov. Tom Wolf’s staff, waiting for permission to begin organized activities.
In a press release sent out Friday, PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi said, “In anticipation of PDE guidance being issued soon, schools need to be assessing appropriate return to play protocols for them to be able to open up their campuses.”
If the schools across the state have taken the necessary precautions to allow players and coaches to prepare for their upcoming seasons, why not give them a go ahead to start practicing? Schools have been closed since March. They are likely more clean now than during a typical school year.
July 1 was the initial date when teams could begin organized activities again. With much of the state in the yellow or green phase, it would make a lot of sense to get the athletes back onto the fields of play sooner.
Some athletes have not played sports since March. If teams cannot convene until July 1, it places added pressure on both athletes and coaches to get game ready in a short span of time.
For new coaches it becomes even harder, especially on the gridiron. To try and install a new offensive and defensive scheme in a little more than a month’s span of time before Week 1, that is certainly trying for even the best of programs.
Injuries also become a bigger issue. While many athletes have been training during the COVID-19 pandemic, some do not have access to weights, and rely on the weight room and trainers to become more equipped for what is in store for a grueling season.
Without organized weight lifting and on-field workouts, the muscles might not be ready for such demanding physical activity if the July 1 restart date holds true.
The PIAA has played it safe, waiting for the Department of Education and Wolf to give guidelines for when sports can resume.
While it might work well for the PIAA to hold off on sending athletes and coaches back into facilities, the system is not helping its member schools right now by keeping them confined.
People are taking vacations. Stores are open for business. It is time to enable athletes and coaches to get back to some form of normalcy and prepare for what lies ahead.
There will certainly be challenges along the way. But given proper guidance sooner rather than later, schools can work out an issues to the point where following proper safety guidelines will become second nature.
It is time for the PIAA to take matters into their own hands if schools are not given the green light to begin organized activities this week.