Students, parents urge Section XI to bring back sports; Mattituck to start intramural program

A small group of student-athletes gathered in front of Mattituck High School Friday evening to deliver a big message: Let us play!

Following the lead of larger rallies held around Suffolk County, the group’s message was for Section XI to allow high school sports to resume this fall, as it can for other sections in upstate. Section XI, the governing body for high school sports, announced Sept. 11 that sports would be delayed until Jan. 4. Section XI opted not to begin a fall season on Sept. 21, as allowed by guidance from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

“If they won’t let kids play cross country and tennis and golf in the nice fresh air, what are they going to do in January?” said Lisa Fox, who has two sons currently in the district who both play sports. “They’re really going to let kids play basketball inside a gym? It just doesn’t make sense.”

The Mattituck-Cutchogue Athletic Booster Club helped organize Friday’s rally, which was held on the sidewalk near Main Road with participants wearing face coverings.

Ms. Fox said the goal was to take a stance against Section XI and “let them know we’re not happy this decision and that it doesn’t even really reflect the wants of the parents and players.”

Her oldest son, Connor, is a senior who plays golf in the fall and his primary sport is baseball in the spring. Her youngest son, Justin, is in eighth grade and plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse.

Ms. Fox said her sons played sports all summer. Connor played in baseball tournaments and Justin played in lacrosse tournaments. She said everyone followed the guidelines at that time and she didn’t know of anyone contracting COVID-19 from playing.

“We followed all the rules, there was no problems,” she said. “They changed the rules in baseball a little bit with no umpire behind the plate.”

She said they’re fortunate that their sons can still play on various club teams. But not every family has the means to sign their kids up for various travel leagues that often aren’t local to the North Fork. She said Justin plays lacrosse in East Islip three days a week.

“Not everyone can do that,” she said. “It’s a disadvantage to a lot of people who don’t have extra money to put into sports and don’t have the ability to get to these far away locations.”

To help fill the gap with no prep sports, Mattituck plans to start an intramural program where students can form teams and play against each other. Athletic director Gregg Wormuth presented the proposal to the Board of Education during Thursday night’s virtual meeting.

The program would run from Sept. 29 to Nov. 19 and allow students to play soccer, cross country, flag football and tennis. He said teams could possibly be co-ed.

Since the school is operating under a hybrid plan, the students would only be allowed to play on days they attend school, he said. The program would be for high school students as well as those in seventh and eighth grade. The middle school students would play separately from the high school kids.

The games would run from Monday-Thursday from 2:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., mirroring the time that kids would typically be playing their junior varsity or varsity sports. Mr. Wormuth said he expects many of the current coaches to participate as supervisors, but other teachers or staff members would also be welcome to help. He estimated needing 15 staff members to be responsible for organizing and running the events.

“I do think our coaching staff from the fall would be ready and willing to jump into those positions,” Mr. Wormuth said.

An athletic trainer would be staffed during those hours, he said.

The BOE voted unanimously to approve a motion to allow the intramural program.