MAHOPAC, N.Y. – With each passing week, the question becomes more pressing: What will school look like in September, and will sports be a part of the picture?
As state officials continue to huddle this month to discuss the issue, it appears that a number of scenarios are on the table, including full school attendance, remote schooling, or perhaps most likely, a hybrid of some kind.
High school athletes are hoping they get to school and get to participate in sports this fall.
“I think we have to prepare for some type of hybrid situation,” Steve Luciana, incoming Mahopac School District athletic director, told Mahopac News. “We have to prepare for all scenarios, and the district is trying to be prepared for any possibility. In-person is what everyone wants. I think the preference would be to be back full-time.”
Luciana admitted sports in a hybrid situation won’t be easy.
“It could be complicated, a different can of worms,” Luciana said. “The task force is continuing to meet, and it looks like we’ll need to be ‘in building’ to have sports.
“We’re preparing every day,” he added. “We are preparing as if we are starting on Aug. 24.” As of now, that is the date fall teams are officially allowed to begin practicing—but that can always change.
Luciana added the price of losing another season would be costly.
“It would be awful to miss another season,” he said. “Relationships are built, lessons learned. The responsibility of being on a team, relationships you build with teammates,” Luciana said. “Often you make lifetime friends. There’s a big mental health part of it. The structure, the routine, we’re all concerned about the mental health of students. No extracurriculars can have an effect on that—and beyond athletics. Extracurricular activities mean a lot, and to miss a that for a second season would really be tough.”
Contact sports may be the toughest to get a handle on.
“Sports like football and soccer will be very challenging,” Luciana said. “Contact sports can be tough to have protocols in place. But if we’re allowed to move forward, whatever safety protocols are in place, that’s what we’ll have to follow. The safety of our athletes and spectators is our number one priority.”
Luciana said he’s also concerned about “informal workouts” that have been seen in some places.
“It does concern me,” he said. “All fields are shut down, and if groups are not following guidelines, and putting athletes in danger, that concerns me. I hope coaches understand the importance of what we’re doing, so we have the opportunity to play at the end of August.
“Kids are beyond frustrated,” he added. “Whatever sport they play, they love. Missing something you love is really hard for a 15- and 16-year-old to understand. That’s why we’re hoping we can give the kids an opportunity to play this fall. This is uncharted territory. Hopefully it’s not the new normal, but now it is new.”
Luciana, who replaces interim (and former longtime) AD Frank Miele, would’ve preferred to begin his time at Mahopac under better circumstances, but he’s still excited to have the gig.
“I’m excited about coming to Mahopac, excited to meet the coaches and athletes,” he said. “I am really hoping for a season, I really want to see what they can do. Whatever needs to be done, I’m going to make sure it’s done.
“Frank Miele did an unbelievable job, an amazing job under the circumstance,” Luciana added. “I want to build off what he did. Every program will be given the opportunity to be successful. That’s my goal.”