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PIAA: Fall sports can begin

On Friday, we’ll finally know if high school soccer in Pennsylvania will officially have a Fall season, or not.

Decision Day Updates & Reaction:

How We Got To This Point 

It was more than two weeks ago when Governor Tom Wolf along with PA’s Department of Health and Department of Education made the ‘strong recommendation’ for all scholastic sports be delayed until at least January 1.

PA officials ‘strongly recommend’ postponing HS Fall sports; ball is now in ‘disappointed’ PIAA’s court

At that point, the PIAA’s board convened immediately, but instead of making a decision, opted to try to work with the Governor and state officials. The PIAA publicly disagreed, arguing the Governor’s recommendation isn’t based on relevant data, and the board could vote to allow fall sports to continue against the wishes of the governor and his administration.

“Everybody wants at least some sort of answer or guidance to move on,” WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “not just a continual push back.”

The 32-person PIAA board meets online at 3 p.m. The board includes members from all 12 PIAA districts along with representatives for the state’s principals, superintendents, game officials and other specific constituencies.

“I know they’ve heard from a lot of people from both sides,” Scheuneman said. “Everything is being taken into consideration. It’s going to be an important decision that they make for all of us.”

PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi told state legislators during Tuesday’s hearing before the Pa. Athletic Oversight Committee that the PIAA “would like to move forward with the start of fall sports.”

In the meantime, WPIAL officials are also meeting with Allegheny County Health department in how to move forward and work together in preparations for a Fall sports season.

A statement issued Thursday by an ACHD spokesperson said the 50-person limit applies to sports and “is intended to limit the spread of covid-19 in our community. That is particularly true for groups of youth who are often asymptomatic while having the virus and may not realize that they are spreading it.”

However, the ACHD noted that guidance from the WPIAL and PIAA already includes “extensive protocols” to address covid-19.

“The Allegheny County Health Department is looking at those protocols and will work with WPIAL to ensure safe events in the county meet COVID guidelines while also allowing sporting events to occur with appropriate measures in place,” the ACHD spokesperson said.

Ed Rosensteel and I discussed this topic earlier this week in PSN Coaches Corner, where we both made our cases and weighed the pros and cons.

While we both agreed that poor leadership and lack of a consensus in steering ahead a plan that everyone would need to follow has only left more questions and concerns — and left high school soccer (and all fall sports participants) players, coaches and families in limbo.

Ed made the point that if we don’t push forward, and try to make it work in the Fall, we won’t be able to institute best practices and have real, tangible data that school districts, administrators at WPIAL and PIAA can work with to ensure the best protocols and safety measures going forward.

After weeks of debate and delays, it’s time to decide.

Meanwhile, naturally, the players want to play. The coaches want to coach.  And there’s no doubt, there’s a few emotional parents letting their voices be heard as well.

There’s a lot of momentum around the state, and here in Western PA revolving around #WeWantToPlayMovement.

There are plenty of folks who, understandably, have concerns and there are going to challenges if high schools and scholastic sports are played in the fall.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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