PIAA restrictions on winter sports


Evan Manion

A TJ basketball player and the referees wear masks while a Bethel basketball player (John Harmon) does not. TJ requires its athletes to wear masks during competition. Officials are expected to wear masks. Bethel does not require its athletes to wear masks during active play.

Amelia "Mia" Lazzaro, Staff Writer

The months of January and December have been up in the air regarding winter sports and their requirements since the climbing COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.

Luckily, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Board of Directors had decided to extend winter sports as of their meeting on Dec. 9, 2020. In this meeting, they lengthened the season by about 16 weeks, allowing winter athletes to participate till March 27. With this extension, the PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi moved back postseason deadlines and allowed teams to schedule more games in their postseason.

“We have not seen any data why Jan. 1 would be better than Dec. 11, or why Jan. 15 better than Feb. 1,’’ Lombardi said. “The board, I believe, took this very seriously, and wanted to give schools the greatest amount of flexibility they could.’’

Since this meeting, there have been changes in the criteria regarding the rules of some winter sports. The PIAA released a new guidelines packet, drawing on the expertise of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and PIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), which tells PIAA member schools what to consider approaching the “Return to Competition” for high school athletics in Pennsylvania.

In addition to backing previous statements from the Secretary of Health’s Order put into effect Nov. 18, 2020, the PIAA put recommendations of restrictions for winter sports: basketball, competitive cheer, swimming and diving, wrestling, indoor track and field, bowling, gymnastics and rifle.

Many athletes and coaches have been questioning the mask mandate for their winter athletes and when they are able to take them off. For example, the Bethel Park varsity cheer, competitive cheer, and JV cheer have to wear masks covering their noses and mouths when cheering but may bring them down when stunting in a routine. Of course, they too have to try to stay six feet apart when sitting in the bleachers and when going to get water from their separated bags.

At the Friday basketball game on Jan. 22, our varsity basketball team beat Grove City at the buzzer with a 51-49 win. The Grove City basketball players had to wear any type of mask both off and on the court. Even in the third quarter, the referees stopped the game for a second so a Grove City basketball player could get a replacement mask from his team since his mask broke off.

Perhaps Bethel Park will be the next school to make their teams wear masks, no matter the sport, since the climbing cases in the high school.