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PIAA adapting new practice schedule

A pair of noteworthy changes were approved by 30-0 votes Tuesday at the latest Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association board meeting.

The organization shortened the mandated number of preseason practices for the 2020-2021 winter sports season from 15 to 10 in most cases and postponed the PIAA team wrestling tournament to a date to be determined.

“We wanted to discuss if we could shorten those amount of days without any compromise of health and safety,” PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said. “With that, we put together a schedule. We ran this by our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the overwhelming support there was that there was no research that 15 days was better than 10 days. Because of that, they supported this type of tiered return to play.”

With the new policy, teams that have zero practices in must complete 10 days of practice before their first competition rather than the previous number of 15. If teams have already completed six or more practices, they will be allowed to have competitions after four practices.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put a pause on all high school athletics until Jan. 4, meaning the earliest any competitions can take place will be Friday, Jan. 8 if a team already has at least six practices in and is able to practice Jan. 4-7. If a team has zero practices in, and sports resume on Jan. 4, the earliest return-to-competition date for teams that can practice on the campus of their school will be Friday, Jan. 15.

Some teams that do not practice in the same location of their school may only require five practices to return, even if they haven’t practiced yet.

“Many schools do not have on their campus, pools, bowling alleys or a rifle range,” Lombardi said. “We would reduce their requirement to five days, not 10, due to the fact that some of those facilities may allow them in only once or twice a week.”

The PIAA team wrestling tournament, originally scheduled for early February, could now be held as late as March 29-30 depending on the availability of the Giant Center in Hershey.

“We don’t want to be disruptive to the individual tournament,” PIAA Chief Operating Officer Mark Byers said. “I think we need to utilize those weeks for part of the regular season for many of the schools, so right now I think the idea is to get the individual tournament in and allow some time for district qualification for the state championships. We don’t have any particular days in mind right now, but allowing through March 27 gives us some flexibility.”

Lombardi said the PIAA is confident that sports remain on track to resume practice on Jan. 4.

“We’re taking the information we have received at their word,” Lombardi said. “(The governor’s office) came up with that date, and we’re going to work off that date as an anchor. If by chance it moves or becomes fluid, we believe that we will be able to get the most current information on Jan. 6, and we’ll adjust if we need to. We’re hopeful that it starts Jan. 4, because that gives schools the optimum number of days to get a winter schedule in.”

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