Princeton High School Athletic Department prepares for fall sports

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The athletic department at Princeton High School is prepared to resume fall sports when the green light is given for the school to safely open.

While schools statewide are still in holding pattern as they await further guidelines on reopening for 2020-21, athletic departments have received guidance and fall season information from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) regarding the push back of the start date for fall sports to resume.

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According to NJSIAA, official fall sports practices can begin on Sept. 14 and competition will start with girls tennis on Sept. 28; all other sports except football on Oct. 1, and high school football scheduled to officially kickoff on Oct. 2.

“The Princeton High School Athletic Department is prepared to be in compliance with all of the necessary safety protocols to resume fall sports which have been set forth by NJSIAA. As a district, we plan to work closely with the Princeton Health Department and other local and federal organizations to ensure the continued safety of our student athletes,” PHS Athletic Director Brian Dzbenski said. “At this time, our goal is to safely open our public schools first and then safely allow athletic opportunities for our high school and middle school students.”

Changes have been made by the athletic department for sports at PHS since guidelines have been released by the state and NJSIAA. The changes include updated health history questionnaire forms prior to the department opening its online fall sport athletic registration system.

“The new forms now include important COVID-19 questions that are required to be answered prior to a child getting medically cleared to participate in a sport,” Dzbenski said. “In addition, we developed an online COVID-19 health screening questionnaire form that will remind students and parents daily what to look for if you suspect your child may be suffering any of the symptoms of COVID-19. This will notify parents and athletes if they need to remain home to monitor their health.”

Along with the questionnaires, the athletic department has purchased infrared thermometers for the medical staff for temperature screenings before practices and games. In preparation for the need of sanitizing “shared” athletic equipment for fall sports, PHS has also purchased enough two-gallon poly pump sprayers and low odor disinfectant for the middle school and high school athletic programs, according to Dzbenski.

“Finally, we have purchased cloth masks for all of the students in our program and additional hand sanitizer which will need to be used before and after practices and games,” he said.

Dzbenski added that the department supports the district’s goal in regards to safely bringing students and staff back into the buildings for the purpose of teaching and learning.

“Once this is successfully accomplished and NJSIAA and our local health department allows us to return to play, we are prepared to implement a phased approach to safely and responsibly restart our athletic program. At this time, our coaches have developed robust remote coaching websites for all of the sports we offer here at PHS and John Witherspoon Middle School,” he said. “We are currently running a remote coaching strength and conditioning summer program which has very good attendance. If we need to keep our athletes training remotely this fall and/or in person we are prepared to do so.”

As of July 21, regular seasons will conclude for girls tennis on Oct. 23, Nov. 7 for football, and Nov. 12 for all other fall sports. There will be a limited postseason that will span from Oct. 24-31 for girls tennis and for all other sports Nov. 13-22, according to the NJSIAA.

For schools that do not participate in the postseason they may also continue to play until Nov. 22, with Thanksgiving football games as the exception. Thanksgiving football games will be allowed after Nov. 22 and will depend on decisions by individual school. Outside of football, no other fall sports will be able to play in competition after Nov. 22.

“Our athletic department is not concerned about fall sports being shut down but have developed a thorough understanding of the challenges that schools are facing. We are prepared to open our athletic program safely and responsibly on Sept. 14,” Dzbenski said. “If this is not possible, our department has started to explore the possibility of working collaboratively with local organizations to rent space on our playing fields at the end of the school day to allow affordable fall sport opportunities for the children attending our public schools.”

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