Straub clears up PIAA off-season workout situation

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

There has been confusion as to when the Pennsylvania Scholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) will allow schools to begin off-season workouts for the 2020-2021 high school sports season. It’s been complicated by the state’s red, yellow, and green color coding in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. PIAA District 9 Chairperson Aaron Straub, who is a member of the state athletics Board of Directors, took time to clear up the status during a phone interview Monday afternoon.
“When the governor announced that schools were closed for the school year the PIAA took the stand that the school year runs through June 30 so there would be no sporting activity until after June 30,” said Straub, who is also the Elk County Catholic Athletic Director and boys basketball Head Coach.
That stance has since changed after discussions at the PIAA’s board meeting on May 20 - “there was an overwhelming sentiment from the Board to allow students to go back to athletic activities once they are permitted by the Governor. Since the Governor has now moved to a county by county approach the Board believes that if the Governor allows some counties to resume athletic participation then those students should be allowed to participate instead of having a common start date of July 1,” said the PIAA’s latest release. The board also allowed the organization’s Executive Director Dr. Robert A. Lombardi to work directly with Governor Wolfe’s office as to when school districts could begin training. Lombardi will issue statements to districts as the go-ahead is given from the state, according to Straub.
“That June 30 date no longer became a hard date. It’s whenever the governor allows [school district activity to open]. It’s getting misinterpreted that since we’re (District 9) in the green phase (state’s COVID-19 color coding) we must be allowed to do it. That becomes even more complicated with AAU teams and travel teams starting to do things. The PIAA and the member schools of the PIAA are not permitted to start weight room activities, summer workouts, seven-on-sevens, open gyms, and anything along those lines until there is a release by the executive director,” Straub said stressing the coordination with the PIAA and the Governor’s office. “It was a big thing that was discussed at the [May] meeting. The Board felt that if an area is able to start they should be able to start and not be held back by a section of the state that is not open yet. Obviously different parts of the state are going to be released to do things at different times,” said Straub while again referring to the state’s pandemic color coding. “What is complicating it is using the color green and saying OK now we’re open and everything is a go. It is not in terms of high school sports.”
Adding to the confusion about openings has been various reports from media outlets that confused interpretations about the green definition used by the state in its COVID-19 coding system and the green for workouts, which as Straub said does not apply to schools. There is also speculation that because areas may open sooner than others it will create an unfair advantage when it comes to state playoffs. Straub said the subject was discussed at the May 20 meeting. “The backside [teams beginning activities ahead of others] was how fair was that going to be when we have a state tournament if one school had the ability to practice and play much longer than another school?”
While there is a possibility state-wide championships could be canceled because of differences in training start dates, the PIAA has made no such decision. If that were the case seasons could end following district championships.
“Everybody wants to just have the kids have some sort of opportunity to have athletic competition,” Straub said.
The next PIAA board meeting is set for Monday, June 15 via Zoom.