‘These kids need an outlet’: Youth sports leaders respond to new NYSED athletic guidance

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As many athletes prepare for their upcoming fall seasons, there are some concerns.

The New York State Department of Education released new recommended guidance for schools and athletics on Thursday, that could impact some sports.

The guidance said in areas of high COVID-19 transmission, like Monroe County, high risk sports should be cancelled or held virtually, unless all athletes are fully vaccinated. 

This could potentially impact sports like football, wrestling, hockey, volleyball or completive cheerleading. 

Derek Annechino, the Head Football Coach at Aquinas Institute, said he wishes the new guidelines were different. 

“It was disappointing that they would go to that extreme. We just finished a successful football season in the spring, when a lot less people were vaccinated. At the beginning, when we started, it was very new to everybody, so we got through an entire football season in the spring without any issues,” Annechino said. 

While Annechino said he knows its his job to help keep students safe, he also believes there are things that can be done.

“It’s our job as adults to keep them safe and I whole-heartedly believe that we got to do everything we can to keep them safe, but that’s why the protocols are in place. If you’re going to have kids in a classroom with masks on, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to be out on a football field with masks on.”

As a coach, Annechino sees the benefit sports and extracurricular activities can bring to students. 

“These kids need an outlet for both their mental health and physical health. You could see during different times over the course of the last year and a half, kids are changing, they are not as positive about things,” Annechino said. “They need outlets for their energy, they need outlets for their minds, and sports, athletics, extracurricular activities are a very important part.” 

This guidance is a change from last spring, when many athletes were able to participate, in some form, in the sport they love. 

“We were able to, again, have those high-risk sports and play last school year and do it safely, parameters of all the guidance associated with it,” said Michael Giruzzi, Director of Physical Education and Athletics with Hilton CSD. 

Even with shorter seasons, less fans, or certain safety guidelines in place, students were still happy to competing, especially with many back-and-forth in the classroom. 

“To see the looks on their face as they were able to compete in the sport that they love. It actually was such a great thing,” Giruzzi said. “You saw that glitter in there, I saw that joy, and excitement.”

As school districts work with local health departments work to figure out their fall plans, coaches say regardless of what happens, one thing will never change:

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love being around these kids and didn’t care for them, so I am going to do the things that I did, when were were on pause, to try to keep them as upbeat as possible, to try to check in on them and to make sure they are doing alright,” Annechino said.  

The Hilton Central School District and Aquinas Institute said they plan to proceed with their fall seasons as normal right now. They will be working with their school district and local health department to figure out any future plans. 

Bo Wright, the President of Monroe County Council of School Superintendents, said in a statement to News 8: 

“The New York State Education Department has made a number of recommendations regarding the reopening of schools. Many of these suggestions align with guidance we have seen from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, it is up to school districts throughout the state to decide how to proceed. Every district has its own circumstances to consider and their plans will be shared as soon as possible. At this time, we have no indication that fall sports will be negatively impacted by the department of education’s recommendations. Along with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, we continue to monitor the situation. Local districts remain committed to reopening in-person five days a week.” 

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