ROXBURY, NJ – Concern about COVID-19 today prompted officials to postpone most Roxbury winter sports and to cancel others altogether.

At the high school level, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) announced the delay of all winter sports and the cancellation of all formal winter sports tournaments.

Under the new plan, high school ice hockey, basketball, fencing and bowling are pushed to January, with ice hockey practice starting in December due to contractual obligations with rinks.

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Swimming and winter track & field will begin in February. None of these sports will have a state-sponsored post-season tournament. Post-season competition will instead be sanctioned by leagues conferences, at their own discretion.

Recreation Department Pulls Plugs

On the heels of the NJSIAA decision, Roxbury Recreation Department Director Brett Douglas announced the indefinite postponement of Roxbury Recreation's boys and girls third-grade through eighth-grade basketball and wrestling. Also postponed is the Recreation Department's basketball program for high school aged students, Douglas said.

He also announced the full cancelation of the 2020-2021 Roxbury Recreation travel basketball winter season and the pre-clinic wrestling program for pre-kindergarten through second-grade.

Douglas said he hopes that the township's street hockey program, which is "wildly popular and usually runs at the conclusion of wrestling and basketball, sometime in February," will fare better. "We hope to get that up and running sometime around the same time as usual," Douglas said.

Although Roxbury Schools Superintendent Loretta Radulic recently noted that there have been no cases of COVID-19 transmission between Roxbury students, Douglas said the sports postponements and cancelations stem from discussions with other public officials and agencies.

In a letter to the public, he said the decision is based on guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the state Department of Health and the township Health Department and Gov. Phil Murphy.

The fate of the department's sports programs was not discussed in public at any recent meetings of the Roxbury Township Council. But Douglas said the postponements and cancelations were decided following "many conversations" with the council, Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo, Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd and the township Recreation Advisory Committee.

'Best Opportunity for Our Kids'

The NJSIAA's decision was made by the organizations Sports Advisory Task Force.

“We remain keenly focused on providing New Jersey’s student athletes with the opportunity to participate in sports, and given current health data and modeling, we believe pushing the schedules back ensures the best opportunity for our kids,” said NJSIAA COO Colleen Maguire, in a press release. “The staggered winter schedule is based on feedback from health officials, anticipated capacity limitations as well as the availability of facilities which are used by many of our winter sports.”

Wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball will start in March. According to the NJSIAA, a decision on state-sanctioned post-season tournaments for these sports is still being debated.

Additionally, the NJSIAA said spring sports, which were completely canceled in 2020, will start in late spring and will “most likely” go through June.

“New Jersey should be proud of its student athletes, coaches, administrators, and all those who make high school sports possible,” Maguire added. “During our fall season, NJSIAA member schools successfully engaged approximately 80,000 student-athletes across 5 sports. We will continue working hard to make the winter and spring seasons a success as well. As was the case in the fall, the potential for play is ultimately based on everyone working together to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

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