Participation in sports is great, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) said in a recent column. Transferring across state lines to play in a pandemic? Karissa Niehoff is a bit less enthused.
As the CIAC and state Department of Public Health work out how fall sports will work in Connecticut, Niehoff wrote on dealing with COVID-19 adjustments like mask-wearing, rearranging the calendar and possibly playing outdoor volleyball.
When it came to transferring for non-academic reasons, she was more skeptical.
“With no sports being played in several states this fall due to the pandemic,” Niehoff wrote, “some families have uprooted their lives and moved to another state – or to other schools within their own states – to enable their sons or daughters to play sports in an area that has a lower spread of the virus – with the singular focus of earning a college scholarship.
“Ordinarily, moves of this extreme nature are not athletically motivated. But it would be hard to defend many of these recent transfers – across the country or across town – as anything but related to athletics.”
Connecticut has seen a few of those transfers, most notably Daron Bryden: The Bloomfield all-state quarterback, committed to play at Stony Brook, moved to Oklahoma for his senior year.
The CIAC has plans to start a limited season of competition for all fall sports no earlier than Oct. 1, with workouts and practices building from small-group conditioning up to full practices along the way as long as COVID-19 metrics remain low.
Full-contact football and indoor volleyball are in more doubt in Connecticut than other sports because the state Department of Public Health has recommended against playing them. And while top volleyball players can compete for their clubs, there are no similar programs outside of school for football players to be scouted by college coaches.
Niehoff’s column noted that no state associations have yet canceled sports, with some looking at playing fall sports in the spring. The CIAC has said, though, that any sport that can’t complete its season in the fall won’t compete in the spring. And some districts have preemptively pulled out of some fall sports.
“Although there are a limited number – less than two percent – of high school students who will play at the college level, the majority will not. The uprooting of an entire family to move to another state with the uncertainty of whether COVID-19 might eventually delay or cancel sports in that state, along with the uncertainty of such a move impacting scholarship offers, seems short-sighted,” Niehoff wrote.
“We suggest families consider the bigger picture and remain invested in education-based activities in their school and community.”
Niehoff was executive director of the CIAC for seven years before becoming the NFHS’ executive director in 2018.