On My Mind…Will There Be Fall Sports This Year?

The $60,000 – or multi-million dollar – question for the team business this summer is, “Will there be fall sports in 2020?

My answer is, yes. And you can hold me to that — although certainly let’s check back next month to see how things are going. But I believe very strongly there will be school sports this fall, although they will look much different and a full season is by no means certain. Let me explain.

I have spent a good part of the last few weeks speaking with coaches, team dealers, vendors and even players around the country and I have never seem such a unanimous belief in the need to get back to some semblance of normalcy. School shutdowns, and the cancellation of the spring sports season, have taken an immeasurable toll on the health and well-being of our nation’s youth.

I am not talking about the business aspects of the lack of team sports — although that is definitely the focus of our readership and will certainly play a role in getting kids back on the playing fields this fall. No, I am talking about the collective will of America to get something done.

I am not unaware of the challenges of keeping our children and their teachers safe in some sort of return-to-school this year and without a doubt those safety concerns are paramount in any return-to-play scenario. If our kids cannot be safe in their schools, then they cannot possibly think about playing sports. I am glad that I am not in the business of education and trying to figure out how to educate our most precious resources in the midst of a deadly pandemic. But I trust those that are in that position to find a workable solution.

And from that trust comes a belief that we will see boys and girls playing high school, recreation and club sports this fall. (College and professional sports are another matter altogether and one I will not be addressing in this editorial.)

I found perhaps the wisest and most sensible solution to the challenge right here where I live in New Jersey, where last week the NJSIAA announced that high school sports will resume on October 1, basically one month later than usual (with practices starting September 15 or thereabouts). While this means a much-shorter season than normal, this option will allow schools to reopen in early September in whatever form local authorities deem best. It will allow them to find out whether these openings work and keep students safe and to iron out any problems. Then – and only then – will the state turn a focus to team sports.

In the meantime, summer practices are going on, coaches are in touch either virtually or socially distanced with their players and team dealers are delivering helmets, balls, uniforms and, increasingly, face masks and disinfectant, to their schools. That renewed activity is a godsend for teams dealers – from the smallest independent up to BSN Sports – who saw their spring and summer businesses dry up in mid-March.

Call me an optimist, but I do envision sports being played in schools this fall. Yes, games will be cancelled as COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head and seasons will be disrupted. Players and coaches will test positive, perhaps entire teams or even leagues will shut down.

But it is important that we try, that we allow the professionals to protect the safety of our children with their well-being in mind. But part of that well-being for thousands of young men and women is the ability to play sports.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you from a proper distance on a high school field this fall. Stay safe.