Following Phil Murphy’s announcement on May 4 cancelling schools for the remainder of the school year, I became one of the thousands of high school athletes across the state who had their season cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. After this, the question now becomes, what’s next, and can athletes get what they worked for back? As it was supposed to be my first varsity season, the announcement came with expected disappointment, and the same could be said for many of our student athletes at Ridgewood High School as well. Many have petitioned even prior to the NJSIAA cancelling high school sports to allow spring athletes the chance to play over summer months, and the state association did contribute to the idea, extending what could have been a spring season to as late as June 30th. The idea previously would cancel some of the well-treasured sectional, state and tournament of champions events, yet it would grant athletes the ability to play the sport they loved in a competitive atmosphere. However, the hope only lasted so long, as Murphy publicized alongside his statement that, “The NJSIAA medical board determined that due to a lack of viable testing and vaccines, spring sports were not a viable option.”
As many are hoping for a spring season in coming months, this would not be feasible, due to multiple reasons. Most importantly, while many students begin to return to semi-normal lives and some) venture out in small groups, officials call for the continuous need with strict social distancing protocols, which is hard to do with many spring sports, for instance, lacrosse. Secondly, and more notably, the fall season begins its tryouts in early August, meaning that there would have to be a safety plan rapidly formed, which seems perplexing due to the current circumstances and stay-at-home order still remaining intact. With no major traction made by associations with how to run a spring season in the future months, it would be ultimately impossible for spring sports to run at any point and be made up for.
Another question, however, remains. With the increasing need for recruiting, how will safety protocols be used at these high school events? With organizers creating ideas for running schools in the fall, these would have to apply for high-school athletic events as well. Football games without fans or a marching band? Masks during a soccer game? Lots of questions remain as a result. One idea from many however has been proposed, which is an eye-opener for many athletes and parents. Based on the disparity between contact and non-contact sports, a viable option remains to allow non-contact sports to play in the fall, while contact sports would be held during the spring. As a tennis player myself, the sport is entirely based off social distancing, as players are at all times six feet away from each other, excluding the handshake at the end. However, the same could not be said for a football game, a soccer match, or even baseball in all honesty. This new proposal would allow sports to be held despite any major uptick in coronavirus cases, especially since there is an increasing likelihood of a coronavirus vaccine during the first half of 2021. If that happens, then spring sports could extend later in the year along with many other school activities that aren’t able to be held in large gatherings, creating a safe environment for contact athletes and sizeable groups. In that case, Ridgewood could hopefully win a Division title at MetLife Stadium in front of thousands of fans in June, as opposed to less fans in December. These options are all on the table, and could be addressed sooner rather than later as the governor offers guidelines for reopening schools in the coming weeks.
While it is extremely sad to see seniors lose their final season at Ridgewood High School, sports can always be played, even without a coveted DI scholarship. All of us at Ridgewood High School hope that the seniors will all push forward with their passion and let it make an impact in the future. And for returning students come September, with the loss of sports, such will hopefully come with a gain in the future.
Graphic: Sunny Rhew