It’s no surprise that sports are a fundamental key in shaping an adolescent’s mental, physical and emotional health. When spring sports were cancelled back in March due to COVID-19, many high school students were reported having high levels of anxiety and depression. With fall approaching, many were holding onto the hope that fall sports would return, giving them a sense of normalcy amidst it all.
Luckily for them, they were given the green light to go.
“I had no faith that we were going to be back, but as luck would have it, we are back,” said Memorial High School right midfielder soccer player, Davis Diaz.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) announced at the end of August that all outdoor fall sports — football, soccer, cross country, field hockey and tennis — could resume. Indoor sports such as gymnastics and girls volleyball will start in February. Winter sports can begin practicing in December.
The NJSIAA stated that these dates may change based on Gov. Phil Murphy and the Department of Health. However, being able to launch the reopening of sports was a major win for them and the student-athletes.
“Our kids need structured activity, and we believe that education-based high school sports is the best way to provide it,” said Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA Chief Operating Officer. “Giving teenagers extra motivation to stay Covid-free promotes healthy outcomes for everyone.”
Memorial High School’s soccer team in West New York started practicing last week and are expected to begin scrimmages this Friday. Díaz, a freshman, was excited he wouldn’t have to miss his first high school season.
“It feels great to be back after half of the year without playing,” said Diaz. “I’ve played soccer in the park, but I was still craving to play soccer.”
Although Diaz says he sometimes struggles with keeping his mask on and social distancing during breaks, adjusting to the new protocols hasn’t been that difficult. At their daily practices, coaches check each player’s temperature and collect covid questionnaires that must be completed before practice.
For Memorial striker, Iversen Lopez adjusting to the new season has been harder.
“I’m adjusting in away that is really hard because a lot of us haven’t really done any physical activities during the pandemic to be able to adjust as well as knowing that we have to wear masks at all time when we don’t do any exercises or physical activity is frustrating and is something we will all adjust to eventually,” said Lopez.
But just being on the field is good enough for him.
However, the NJSIAA announced there will be no state championships to limit travel and the possibility of crowded situations. But soccer, tennis and field hockey teams will be able to compete for regional championships. Cross country can compete for the traditional sectional championships. Football teams will hold postseason football games (Football Post-Season Groupings).
The football postseason will feature four team pools. Each team that decides to participate will play in a two-game series and this setup won’t follow the standard elimination process that traditional postseason games follow.
Some key points of the football postseason plan:
- Participation in the Football Post Season Groupings are open to any school that wishes to participate
- Groupings for the pools that will take place in the two-game series will be determined by the school’s enrollment and geography
- NJSIAA is scheduling and assigning all games for Week 7 and Week 8 (Nov. 13 and 20)
- There will be no awards or trophies
“This school year, especially the fall season, is about re-engaging our student-athletes and providing participation,” said Maguire.