The Public School Athletic League will resume play in April, the city announced Monday, after games were halted last March.
“It’s like [the players are] being let out of jail on a murder charge they didn’t commit,” Benjamin Cardozo High School basketball head coach Ron Naclerio told the Chronicle. “They’re looking forward to their freedom.”
Strength and conditioning will begin in April with competitive play to begin in May and the season going into the summer.
The city didn’t immediately respond when asked if all spring sports will be coming back or just some.
Bayside High School baseball head coach Kevin Brown said he is glad the conditioning sessions will come ahead of the season.
“I’m sure a lot of these kids haven’t done anything in a while,” he said.
Brown also said the later-than-usual start to the season will be better for pitchers, who won’t have to throw in typically cold early-season weather.
Naclerio said he considers it “impossible” that many players will quickly be game-ready as “some put on pandemic pounds.”
There is also the mental adjustment to getting back to competitive play.
“I’d rather have that problem than the problem of not being able to play,” he said.
Students learning remotely will be allowed to play sports. Weekly testing and masks will be mandatory. Spectators will not be allowed.
There is still a question of who is going to come out to play.
Flushing High School baseball head coach Joe Gerloven said players he spoke to were “ecstatic” when learning of the news. The usual no-cut tryouts in September and October, where players could show off their game for the coach, were not held.
“We have to see who is still in school and which players and their families agree to get out there,” Gerloven said.
There have been players whom the coach has gotten to watch from afar, following results for travel ball teams. “One of the saddest parts of the pandemic has been not being able to see your talent develop,” Gerloven said.
Brown added, “A lot of these programs haven’t seen their kids in a year.” He said Bayside had 11 freshmen two years ago and will have a number of familiar faces.
Some players joined travel teams. Some practiced and played games in parks.
“You’re not getting a scholarship by playing in the park,” Naclerio said.
Gerloven said missing this season after 2020 was cut short would have been disastrous. “Everybody would have been suffering,” he said.
He also noted that last year’s senior class saw their careers end abruptly. “Having a modified season is great to showcase what we have going into next year and it gives our seniors a proper sendoff,” Gerloven said.
Naclerio, with 850 career wins, can continue his quest of setting the city record, held by the late Jack Curran of Archbishop Molloy, who won 972.
“A few people mentioned that to me,” Naclerio said.
Brown said the goal is always to make the playoffs, go on a postseason run and get to Yankee Stadium for the title game. But there is more than just winning in 2021.
“The most important thing this year is getting kids back on the field and having normalcy,” he said. “They can act like kids again, playing with their friends.”