The familiar thud of a lacrosse ball bouncing off an outside wall of the gym. The sound of a disc whirling through the air at the turf field. Running shoes pounding the oval track.
This was the scene at Scarsdale High School Monday morning, with the sun shining in the clear sky and the temperatures starting to approach 60 degrees. With the building empty and the parking lots holding only a handful of cars due to a 10-day districtwide schools shutdown following a middle school faculty member testing positive for coronavirus, in addition to a stoppage in the classrooms, the first day of the spring sports season was also postponed.
Athletic director Ray Pappalardi sent an email to student-athletes and their families after superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman notified the entire district of the closing. Pappalardi’s two-paragraph letter included, “Consistent with the District-wide school closure goal of social distancing, student-athletes should not participate in ‘captains practices’ or other team get-togethers during the closure period.”
The impacted spring sports are baseball, softball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, track and field, crew, boys tennis, boys golf, girls golf and ultimate.
Pappalardi confirmed that all grass fields are closed this time of year anyway but, in addition to that, so are all school facilities, which includes the turf and track at the high school.
That didn’t stop a handful of athletes — in addition to some adult track-walkers — from coming out to the school to ensure they didn’t lose a step as they anticipate Thursday, March 19, when they hope all will return to normal on and off the field.
Freshman Wade Massey was in the shadows by the high school gym playing wall ball. He’d been looking forward to the first day of lacrosse tryouts for weeks and came to the high school hoping to work on his shot, but the lacrosse goals were locked up. He used the field hockey cage instead before heading over to the wall.
“It’s nice they are looking out for us and I’ll take a week and a half off for sure, but I’m kind of bummed my season is starting late,” Massey said. “I wanted to play in the first scrimmage, so that will have to wait.”
Some of his friends were mountain biking and he planned to join them later on, but Massey still had another hour of work to put in. Though the school has implored students not to get together with one another, that’s a hard sell for many.
“That’s not going to happen,” Massey said. “We’re going to have social time if there’s a week and a half off. We’re going to hang out. No one is going to stay away from each other, though some of my friends’ moms won’t let them go outside and I totally understand that.”
Aaron Klein and Micah Arenstein, both sophomores, showed up to throw a disc around to prepare for the ultimate season. The team had a preseason week last week, but Monday was supposed to be the official start of their season, too.
“So far the first week was really fun and I wanted to come out because our captain, Victor Gao, is really big on no days off,” Klein said. “We wanted to honor what he said.”
Gao sent out a workout schedule for all players to follow in lieu of official practices.
“We’re going to try to keep it small,” Klein said. “We actually got an email from Ray Pappalardi saying not to have formal practices. As long as we keep it to a couple of friends that should be OK.”
Arenstein just couldn’t resist coming out to the turf on such a perfect day. “We’re going to be cooped up in our houses for a while,” he said. “My parents were talking about it and thought it would be good to get out and do something so I don’t go crazy in the house. The team outlined a basic exercise regimen for us to do over the week. It’s a lot of work: two hours a day, six days a week.”
Junior Anya Kornfeld plays tennis in the fall, but came to the high school Monday to meet a friend to get some laps in on the track. She’s been talking with a lot of her peers who were supposed to begin preseason that day.
“They’re really worried that our school is going to fall behind,” she said. “They’re not supposed to have any unofficial practices at all. It’s difficult to have that delay when other schools are still open. We’re one of the first schools to have this long close, but I think other schools will follow in our footsteps.”
She added, “Everyone is just a little disappointed and it’s hectic right now because it was all very sudden last night.”
Kornfeld said there have been “a ton of rumors” as to who the faculty member in quarantine is and asserted that it would help to know so others can take any precautions necessary. In general, she knows each family will have a different policy about leaving the house and for what reason during the next week and a half.
“It’s going to be different for everyone,” she said. “It’s just crazy and everyone sees it differently. I don’t plan on sitting in my house for a week and a half, but I’m going to be cautious — I’m not going to go around touching people or getting too close. But I’m definitely not sitting in my house.”
As of the morning she’d had contact from teachers, but not with any assignments or educational plans, more along the lines of “stay calm, be healthy, relax.” Like many students, Kornfeld has a research paper due later this spring that she knows she can work on and plans to take advantage of the time off to do so. She noted, “Though thinking realistically I’ll get a little bit lazy in the days to come. Today is the first day.”
Michael Waxman, a junior preparing for track and field, said his team isn’t as impacted because track was the lone sport that starts next Monday. While the athletes won’t have the technical coaching, they can still get in their workouts.
“We’re going to miss three days of practice, so I would have been running every day anyway, so I’m just going to follow the workout that Coach gave us,” Waxman said. “It’s more fun to run with other people, so we can still coordinate with other people. It’s not going to be the same as a practice, but I could see myself running with a few kids, nothing crazy. I’ll be running anyway. It’s just a little weird not having school, so it’s going to get boring.”
Junior year can be tough on juniors and many are worried how the missed time will impact them in the classroom. Waxman assured Kornfeld that she’d get her research paper done early, but didn’t expect the same from him.
“It’s hard to be stressed out when you don’t have school,” Waxman said. “School’s the biggest stressor for most people, so when you eliminate that you eliminate a lot of stress.”
Softball senior Sam Hausman plans to stick to working out in her backyard. She’s lucky to have a live-in teammate and practice partner, her sophomore sister Jessie. The original plan by the captains was to hold some practices, until they got the email from Pappalardi.
“It was definitely shocking,” Sam Hausman said of the school closing and season delay. “We were all looking forward to tryouts this year since we had such a great season last year. We were hoping for a high turnout of kids because we were worried about numbers. I think of all of our concerns, none of them were that the school would be closed and we wouldn’t be able to practice for 10 days.”
The setback is a blow as the team is losing four key seniors and welcoming inexperienced and young players, but Hausman is confident her team will overcome the “advantage” the other schools now have.
“I understand and put it in perspective that this is for the safety and health of people,” Hausman said. “We all understand why this is happening and I think it is important with a teacher in the middle school who tested positive. We’ve seen how this virus behaves and we see how quickly it can spread. I’m not necessarily saying the closure isn’t important, but it is disappointing.”
Getting in those workouts at home will be “vital,” Hausman said, whether it’s working on fitness, strength, throwing, hitting or fielding.
“We all have backyards, we all have parents,” Hausman said. “My sister’s a teammate, so we’ll be throwing all the time. It’s making sure we’re not taking those 10 days completely off.”
That just means the teams will have to focus extra hard and be more efficient in their preseason prep once things are back to normal.
“We’ll be on the clock with limited time,” Hausman said, adding, “So it’s great to stay sharp on your own.”
Maddie Amoriello is in a similar boat with lacrosse as a senior. “We’ve definitely been looking forward to it, but it’s good the district is taking these safety precautions for the students, but it’s definitely upsetting our season has been delayed,” she said.
Lacrosse is a tight-knit group and Amoriello has faith her teammates will put in the work on their own to lessen the negative impact of the delay.
“I don’t think it will have that big of an impact,” she said. “I just think everyone is eager to get out on the field and start the season. It’s usually cold at this point. Hopefully the weather stays this way.”
Amoriello will play wall ball and get in some running. “Keeping your stamina up and keeping a stick in your hand is all we can really ask for,” she said.
Pappalardi had a virtual meeting with varsity coaches on Monday at 1 p.m. to give them an update. He had strength and conditioning coaches Devin Hoover and Alex Greenberg on the call so they could help coaches give their athletes guidance on what they can do to keep in shape for when the preseason officially begins.
“The needle we’re trying to thread is that if there are things you can do alone or with your family I think that’s OK,” Pappalardi said. “Once we start pulling groups of kids together, I think that’s a no-no. The whole point of closing school is to give people some time apart until the department of health can come up with some guidance for us specifically and for us to come up with a plan. The last thing we want is for it to spread while we’re closed.”
One coach gave an interview Monday morning, but after receiving a memo later on from the school telling employees not to speak to the media, retracted those statements.
The Section 1 Conference I athletic directors will have a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday. One of the items Pappalardi put on the agenda two weeks ago was the potential impact of the virus, a situation he was closely monitoring knowing it could impact someone. Pappalardi has reached out to all schools Scarsdale will compete against this spring to alert them that some contests will likely need to be rescheduled.
“We do believe it’s going to affect the competitive schedule, that we’ll need to make some adjustments with scrimmages and contests in late March,” Pappalardi said. “Weather could have thrown this monkey wrench into this anyway. It’s not like we’ve never been here before.”
Pappalardi will meet with Scarsdale coaches again on Thursday following the Section 1 meeting.
Over the last two decades, Section 1 has dealt with a major snowstorm in late fall 2011, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and a cancellation of games following the attacks on New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Those events disrupted athletics for one and two weeks at a time.
Hastings and Mount Vernon schools closed two days last week for cleaning and both boys basketball teams were permitted to play in sectionals at the Westchester County Center. Both schools reopened today, but what happens next in Scarsdale and beyond is anyone’s guess.
Pappalardi said athletes generally need six practices in order to be eligible to compete. If all goes well that won’t be an issue, but that doesn’t mean more won’t arise.
“This could be a domino effect — this could be us now and another school later,” Pappalardi said. “I have no idea what this means for Section 1 athletics.”