Spring sports season canceled
A possibility that was long-feared became a reality last Thursday when the PIAA announced the cancellation of all remaining winter sports championships and the spring sports season.
The decision came after Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement earlier in the day that Pennsylvania schools will be closed to in‐person learning for the remainder of the school year.
“Today’s decision by the PIAA Board of Directors was difficult for everyone,” said PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert A. Lombardi in a statement. “Their thoughts remain on the thousands of student-athletes, coaches, officials and family members affected by this decision. However, the Board’s position reflects a steadfast priority of keeping our student-athletes, officials and member schools’ staffs and their communities safe, while following the guidelines provided by the governor, the Department of Health and the Department of Education.
“We had maintained hope for a continuation of our winter championships and an abbreviated spring season to help bring a sense of normalcy to our communities. As we navigate through this difficult time we need to remember the lessons that interscholastic athletics has taught us: cooperation, patience, sacrifice, responsibility, respect and perseverance.”
It was a conclusion that brought closure after weeks of uncertainty, but the outcome was still difficult to process.
“I think the PIAA’s hands were tied by the governor’s decision,” said Northern Lehigh Athletic Director and Colonial League President Bryan Geist. “Personally, I think it was way too early to make that decision. I don’t think there was a harm in waiting, but for whatever reason, the decision had to be made right now, which is very frustrating.
“I feel awful for all of our seniors, all the kids that lose eligibility and lose a year and lose a season, an entire season that they’re never going to get back. So that’s the frustrating part of it.”
The PIAA announced on March 12 that it was postponing its basketball and Class 2A Swimming and Diving Championships for a minimum of two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Class 3A swimming and diving championships were truncated to allow for limited spectators, and were ended after the Class 3A girls diving session. Class 3A swimmers who qualified for finals were denied the chance to swim on last time. Instead, they were awarded medals based on their times from the morning’s preliminary heats.
“It was inevitable, I believe,” said Northwestern Lehigh Director of Athletics and Student Activities Jason Zimmerman, who also serves as the Colonial League Treasurer and the District 11 Football and Competitive Spirit Chairman. “But it doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve been kind of sick to my stomach all day.
“When athletics is a huge part of your life, and your own children are even going through it, your heart goes out to all the people that are impacted negatively by this.”
According to the statement released by the PIAA, 17 other state high school associations have ended their sports seasons in similar fashion.
“The PIAA Board of Directors will meet in the coming months to address any concerns that arise from the membership from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read. “While PIAA remains hopeful that summer activities will be able to commence July 1, it is still too early to reach any decisions or offer guidance at this time.
“In providing any further guidance to the membership, PIAA will continue to monitor any additional information provided by the Governor’s Office, Department of Health or Department of Education as it relates to interscholastic athletics.”
The PIAA announced on March 23 that it would be postponing the start of spring sports for another two weeks and that the possible resumption of the winter championships would continue to be on hold in accordance with Wolf’s “stay-at-home” directive, which at that time encompassed seven counties in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The directive also closed all commonwealth schools and all non-essential businesses for another two weeks.
Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced all 67 Pennsylvania counties would be under stay-at-home orders on April 1.
“I think the one thing to keep in mind,” said Zimmerman, “and one of the things I’ve been seeing, for as tough of a situation as this is and as bad as we feel for these kids as adults, the kids are pretty darn resilient. They will get through this. They will persevere, and they’ll deal with the hand that was dealt to them. That I’m certain of, and I think that gives me greater relief, knowing that we’re doing something right with the youth of America, and that they’re able to take shots like this and bounce back from it.”
Tennis was the lone spring sport to begin its season with official competitions. Baseball, softball, track and lacrosse athletes all had their campaigns cut short after only practicing and taking part in scrimmages.
But the basketball and swimming seasons technically never ended.