Although there were no lights on Friday night in the traditional autumn last fall, this did not deter Mahopac football coach Dominick DeMatteo.
He remained optimistic for a spring start as he rooted and cheered other Mahopac athletes. DeMatteo proudly posted about their achievements on social media as if they were his own players, keeping up with their post-season travels.
As proud and positive as he was for other fall sports teams, he felt uncomfortable as the makeshift fall season gradually came to an end. He and his fellow coaching colleagues in Section 1 had seen their tweets to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYSPHSAA regarding high-risk sports go unanswered.
When the state failed to provide an update on high-risk sports, even though a deadline of December 31 was originally set, the silence raised concerns.
“All of the conversations I heard about winter sports, especially high-risk winter sports, have not been good,” DeMatteo said. “That was worrying and even more worrying was that I didn’t hear any talk about the Fall II season, particularly high-risk sports like soccer, volleyball. It just hit me like a ton of rocks that it was time to do something.”
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With the help of Tanner McCracken, a member of the Mahopac Board of Education who also works as a support officer for the New York State Senate, DeMatteo formulated a plan to start playing for the start of the Fall II season on March 1 kicking off high school soccer.
He developed an organized campaign to gather the community together to write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to local government officials in hopes that elected officials could help raise their voices in Albany.
“We can get upset. We can scold anything we want, Governor Cuomo (chief executive of NYSPHSAA), Robert Zayas, and all of these people, but it fell on deaf ears,” DeMatteo said. “We plan to reach out to our New York State officials as physical education students, parents, coaches, and community members. We are their voters and they must listen to us.”
Union in struggle
First, DeMatteo introduced the plan to Mahopac staff before getting his fellow coaching staff and the rest of Section 1 to follow suit.
“We’ll try to do whatever we have to,” said Andrew Delva, Spring Valley football coach. “Now it’s about getting the community more involved. When I tell them to do something, these guys run through a wall for me. So I feel like I owe it to them to do my best.” Effort to fight for them. “
The players are happy about the joint effort.
“I’d say let the kids play,” said Andrew Tarpey, a senior at Tappan Zee, a three-sport athlete whose soccer and basketball seasons had already been hit. “For me personally, it is a mental challenge not to have to take a break this or that day. Now I’m only in my room or training, but I was only able to do it for so long.”
The campaign is not limited to Section 1, as DeMatteo is creating a foundation in other areas of the state and drawing on the help of various coaching associations.
DeMatteo says Section 9 is also interested, and he’s in contact with public school trainers in Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, Long Island, and New York City. The Catholic High School Football League is also considering participating.
“It’s something that comes from a nationwide voice. I think it’s a good thing,” said Ryan Baldock, Cornwall coach and vice president of Section 9’s Association of Football Coaches. “At the end of the day, you have a say all the time To tell your children about victory or defeat. It’s about your best effort. Every day you give your best effort. We just felt that in section 9 this is the best effort we can do.
“Great testimony to Coach DeMatteo and the Section 1 guys who led this. We don’t know if it will work but we’ll do our best.”
By the scheduled start of the Fall II season on March 1, thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls will be sent to senators, county executives, congregation members and other government officials in hopes that their requests to play will be heard .
Thirty-five of 50 states, including neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania, finished their high school football season last fall.
“We don’t want to be limited to something we love other kids have,” said Matt Weiler, senior at Byram Hills. “We want the same shot as the people in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Children in those areas get what we want.”
Numbers vary by source, but at least a third of New Jersey high school soccer teams have had at least one break due to COVID-19 quarantines. Many of these cases were the result of school exposures.
In New York, Cuomo released a report based on contact tracing data from across the state. It focused on the 46,000 cases from September to November, which is roughly 20% of all confirmed cases.
More than 70% of the cases were traced back to social gatherings. Exercise accounted for only 1.04% of cases, making it the seventh leading cause of infection behind college students, education workers, restaurants, bars, travel, and vacations.
“(Student-athletes) are missing out on so many opportunities not just in athletics but in life in general because of this pandemic,” said Arlington football coach Mike Morano. “As soccer coaches who have an education, New York State certification, or even COVID coach certification, we are able to do so safely.”
According to Morano, members of the Arlington Congregation have already been encouraged by Dutchess County Rep. Marc Molinaro, Rep. Kieran Lalor, and Senator Sue Serino.
Elsewhere, government officials from both sides of the aisle have expressed their support for the campaign on social media, with Congregation members Mike Lawler, Kevin Byrne and Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick also tweeting back.
DeMatteo is encouraged by the early reactions and hopes that more government officials can get involved as more letters are sent out in the coming weeks.
“We need to go to them so hopefully they can go to the governor’s office about the relationships, protocols and committees they serve,” DeMatteo said. “You have to fight this fight for us because no one else can. It has been proven. We are preparing to move on to a year of it. It’s really, really bad and we have to fight for it. It’s time to work for it to use. ” “”
Follow Eugene Rapay on Twitter at @ erapay5.