In a move that will impact thousands of athletes, the Philadelphia Public League announced Monday it has suspended all interscholastic athletic competition until Jan. 1, 2021. The move was made in accordance with recommendations from Gov. Thomas Wolf and the Pennsylvania departments of health and education.
The decision was announced in an email from School District of Philadelphia Athletic Director James Lynch to athletic directors at schools across the city. The postponement will affect sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, golf, tennis, cross-country and volleyball.
“In accordance with Gov. Wolf’s recommendations that were made on Aug. 6, the Philadelphia Public League will be suspending all interscholastic athletic programming through Jan. 1, 2021,” Lynch’s statement said. “If guidelines released by the Governor’s office change, or are updated in a way that would allow programming to resume, we reserve the right to revisit our decision and provide further guidance on a safe return to play. Our focus in the immediate future will be on developing a robust virtual program this fall to engage our student-athletes in a meaningful way as it pertains to NCAA Eligibility, sport leadership programming, post-secondary readiness, and health and wellness programming, in addition to creating a plan to provide individualized skill building and fitness workouts when permitted to resume safely.
“We recognize the important role that interscholastic athletics play both on and off the field, and in the lives of our student-athletes, coaches and our school communities, but it is the health safety of those groups and their families that are paramount to our district. We will continue working with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association [PIAA] in an effort to develop alternative schedules to provide a safe and healthy return to play for all our sports, when recommended to do so by the Governor’s office. The Philadelphia Public League is committed to work to ensure all of our student-athletes have the opportunity to participate in their chosen sport.”
On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Catholic League announced plans to push back the start of fall sports because of COVID-19 concerns.
Under a new format approved by the league’s board of governors, football teams will begin heat acclimatization on Aug. 31 and open their seasons the weekend of Sept. 18-19.
Teams in sports such as soccer, field hockey, girls’ volleyball, and cross-country will begin practice Sept. 14 and open their seasons the weekend of Oct. 2-3.
On Friday, the PIAA announced it would delay beginning the fall sports season for two weeks. The move, which was made during a meeting of the Board of Directors in Mechanicsburg, followed Thursday’s recommendation by Wolf to table interscholastic and recreational sports until Jan. 1, 2021.During the hiatus, the PIAA said it will try to get some input on how to start the fall sports season safely for schools throughout the state.
The Public League’s decision has Malik Jones, head football coach of Martin Luther King Jr. High School, concerned.
“We want to see our guys doing something,” Jones said. “We don’t want them being idle. That can lead to trouble for some our guys and no one wants to see anything bad happen. As coaches, we don’t know what we can and can’t do. Everyone is waiting to hear what we are allowed to do.
“If there is a silver lining in this, it may be that the season can be resumed in the spring. Spring football is played in college and in other [high school associations] around the country. It might turn out to be a good thing. But first and foremost is protecting everyone from this COVID-19 virus. This is very serious. I’ve lost a family member to it. “
Frankford High head football coach
I know everyone is trying [to make things better] but its difficult. You’re hoping for the best [outcome].
“There are still a lot of questions out there that have yet to be answered like will there be another season and if the college season is postponed, what about those seniors? They probably will be given another year of eligibility. That will impact on the freshman players coming into a program. No one has addressed that yet... There are no easy answers or solutions.”