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PIAA sends letter to Gov. Tom Wolf regarding fall sports

PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday asking for a dialogue about the potential of holding fall high school sports.

The PIAA Board of Directors voted during an emergency meeting last Friday to delay the start of the fall sports season two weeks to Aug. 24 after the governor recommended in a Thursday press conference no high school or youth sports be played for the rest of the calendar year. Lombardi said following the Board of Directors meeting the hope of delaying the start of fall sports was to speak to Wolf and representatives from the Departments of Health and Education about fall sports.

Heat acclimatization for high school football was to begin this past Monday with full practices for football and all other fall sports beginning Monday, Aug. 17.

“We recognize, understand and support the significant objective of your office to minimize the risk of a major COVID-19 outbreak this fall and further understand that reducing activities where people congregate supports that goal,” the letter read. “We also believe, however, that sports are going to be played by youth, whether within the PIAA structure or otherwise and that doing so within the educational umbrella may provide the safest means for that to occur.”

Since its Board of Directors meeting on July 29 the PIAA has expressed its intent to play fall sports. That declaration came with a set of Return to Competition guidelines which provided what the PIAA felt were safe operating practices to be able to conduct fall sports in areas where it was safe to do so.

But when Wolf was asked with the final question of a press conference last Thursday about whether or not fans would be allowed into high school sporting events, Wolf responded with his recommendation there be no sports until Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest.

“We are requesting an opportunity to present to you and your staff with options that would permit many of our member schools to engage in fall sports in a reasonably safe environment,” Lombardi’s letter reads. “Our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, in conjunction with our individual sport steering committees, have developed guidelines and practices that go even beyond those that your office has developed.”

Lombardi pointed to recreational tournaments being held throughout the summer in the sports the PIAA would be offering this fall, including golf, tennis, running, basketball (junior high), volleyball and field hockey. He said families have shown they’re willing to let their children compete and by shutting down PIAA sports, it only opens the door for athletes to continue playing in less regulated environments than the PIAA and individual schools have developed this summer.

“One particular advantage of PIAA (versus recreational) sports is that school officials can ensure compliance with their locally adopted Athletic Health and Safety Planning Guide and enforcement of our comprehensive Return to Competition Guidelines, which have been shared with your office,” the letter reads.

The PIAA Board of Directors are scheduled to meet again Aug. 21 in order to have a final vote on whether it will proceed with fall sports or not.

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