There will be a Lancaster-Lebanon League winter sports season. It’s just going to look a little different than usual.
The L-L League Secondary Association on Wednesday voted 20-5 for winter sports teams to play a maximum 17 games, with head-to-head section games beginning for basketball, wrestling, swimming, bowling and rifle the first full week of January.
The recommended 17 max games are down from the usual 22.
The board also voted 18-7 to approve those start dates for league games.
All L-L League winter sports teams may begin practicing on Friday, and teams may schedule nonleague games starting Dec. 11, the first official PIAA play-date for the winter season.
The PIAA Board of Directors also met Wednesday, and gave their OK to the same schedule across the state. They approved a recommendation from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee asking schools to proceed “with an abundance of caution,” as the committee’s meeting minutes read.
During a media question-and-answer session after the meeting, PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said that teams will require 15 days of practice before regular-season competition may begin. The hope is that schools can get the necessary practice in before it gets too late in the season.
It’s already apparent that schedules will vary slightly through the L-L.
Octorara announced Wednesday that it would begin its winter sports practices no earlier than Dec. 8. Meanwhile, Donegal and Warwick announced that they didn’t plan to start winter practices until Dec. 1.
“It was important for our league to take a stance and help out all of our athletic directors and schools so that we can all be consistent,” said Bill Giovino, Lebanon’s principal and president of the league’s board of directors.
“We didn’t want our teams to have to try and find 22 competitions within our league or around the district,” he said. “We’re trying to alleviate some of the craziness that’s going on with scheduling games and rescheduling games.”
The league will await additional guidance from the PIAA — its next meeting is Dec. 9 — and District Three moving forward, and L-L League chairpersons have begun finalizing the section schedules. The potential start dates are Jan. 4 for swimming, bowling and rifle, and Jan. 7 for basketball and wrestling.
Basketball rep Zac Kraft of Lancaster Country Day said the final night of league play in hoops will likely be Feb. 22.
The league did not finalize any plans for potential playoff brackets in any winter sport.
“Fingers crossed,” said Lancaster Catholic athletic director Rich Hinnenkamp, who is president of the league’s AD association. “We’re in a whole different world from where we were even in the fall, with the rate of (coronavirus) spread. This gives us some flexibility because some schools might need a break after Thanksgiving or after Christmas. You might even see some schools come back after those breaks in a virtual bubble to protect everyone.”
Those situations could potentially change athletic schedules.
“Our goal as athletic directors isn’t to minimize our schedules,” L-S AD Branden Lippy said. “Our goal is to give our kids the opportunities they can handle during a time when we’re in a pandemic.”
With a recommended 17 max-game schedule, local athletic directors are anticipating tip-off and holiday basketball and wrestling tournaments will change, especially if teams from out of the area cancel. This will also limit travel for L-L League schools.
Teams impacted by coronavirus quarantines will be able to reschedule games.
“It’s inevitable,” Giovino said. “We’re going to have some schools that are going to be quarantined, and they’re going to have games that will need to be moved. If one team has to leave a (tip-off or holiday) tournament, it’s going to throw everything off. So reducing the number of games and moving the league schedule back gives us more time, in case people have to delay or change their schedules.”