METUCHEN, NJ -- 2020 has been a year filled with controversy, concern, and without a doubt, uncertainty. This is no different when looking into how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the winter sports season for high schools, both public and private, across the state. Saint Joseph High School athletic Director Mike Murray is at the forefront of his private school’s athletics department and is spearheading the process to give his student athletes a season.
As is the case with all other high schools within the state, Murray and his department have been working every day to monitor state guidelines related to health restrictions surrounding school competitions and are hopeful to have all their teams in action for the winter season. One challenge he has faced is with regard to keeping the tentative schedules on track. Teams getting sick and not being able to play certain games poses a challenge for athletic directors across the state.
“I am in constant contact with athletic directors to monitor schedules and handle necessary changes quickly. We have to keep our heads on a swivel and monitor the Athletic Director’s forum as this situation is very fluid, things can change hour by hour,” said Murray, who was involved in the Last Dance Baseball tournament during the summer, which featured teams from 222 high schools.
Murray says that the biggest difference at games this year will be the lack of the St. Joseph student section and other fans.
“We will miss the Falcon Flock at this year’s games. Because there are no spectators allowed this year, we are considering having a live Hudl camera setup so friends and family of these athletes can continue to watch games,” Murray said.
Another challenge faced by athletes during this atypical season lies in the college recruitment and scholarship process. The NCAA currently has a recruiting dead period for Division I sports through April 15, meaning that no in-person recruiting can take place.
“It is unfortunate, but everyone is really in the same boat on this,” said Murray. "What you’re seeing is that the NCAA is extending eligibility for a large portion of players and so lots of teams are going to run into roster size issues which obviously disadvantages the high school kids."
“I have been encouraging them to stay proactive and try to stand out as much as possible. They can do this by sending their highlight tapes out to coaches, maintaining established communication and focusing in school and on the field to do their absolute best every single day,” Murray added.
Most sports in winter have been assigned staggered start dates to accommodate the ever-changing guidelines. As it currently stands, most teams will have schedules of about 15 contests featuring a majority of opponents within their conference or division, with the remaining contests to be against opponents outside the general area.
“With interstate competitions currently restricted, we are trying our best to simulate these types of tournaments and events beyond the normal season schedule,” Murray explained.
All sports except wrestling have ruled out a state tournament, although the wrestling tournament is still under review as wrestlers across the state await a final ruling.
Saint Joseph High School is a private, Catholic all-boys college preparatory school located on 70 acres in Metuchen, NJ. The mission of Saint Joseph High School is to cultivate a desire for life-long learning, nurture the integration of faith and academic inquiry, and instill values of integrity and compassion in the tradition of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. The school draws students from a wide geographic area encompassing over 40 school districts and over 75 grammar schools in Middlesex, Somerset, and Union Counties, as well as outlying areas. To learn more, call (732) 549-7600, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.stjoes.org.