How willing to return to sports will our athletes, and more importantly their parents, be once the threat of the coronavirus pandemic has passed?

We were approaching the championship round of the Island Garden’s winter Super League when COVID-19 entered our lives. Instead of gearing up for the March start of the AAU Basketball season (spring) we were mandated to “Shelter-in-Place” and four months later, here we still are.
Now we watch as our hopes are dashed in relation to re-opening, getting back to sports by way of camps, clinics and small group training by a “pause” on basketball and seven or eight other sports that New York State deems still a high risk activity.

As a business this pandemic has delivered a debilitating blow and we continue to work through the crisis day literally one day at a time. However, NOTHING is more important to us as the safety of everyone who play in or enters our buildings and or participates in our many programs. Safety before money every time! 

Virtually every day we receive calls from our followers asking why other facilities and programs are opening and we are not. We have even questioned ourselves if we are doing the right thing. We have contacted several County Legislators, the Nassau County Executive, Town of Hempstead Supervisor, other Town of Hempstead leaders, two political advisors and the Governor. All who responded are consistent in stating that we are not permitted to open because both of our facilities are considered gyms that were prohibited from opening even in Phase 4. Add to that is the fact that basketball is a high-risk sport. It has been made clear to me that we cannot open at this point and I do not fully understand how other facilities that are operating. I acknowledge that camps are permitted but I cannot open our facilities because they are categorized as gymnasiums and that any camp or small group training that we would run would take place in the gymnasium. These are certainly difficult and confusing times.

The recovery from this pandemic is going to be a slow and long process. We are in this together. Know that once we are given the green light to re-open and return to play, we will hit the ground running. We have all the required safety and sanitation equipment, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and safety procedures in place.All we can really do now is follow the science, listen to the experts (CDC, NYS mandates and county mandates) and plan and prepare for a safe reopening.

A letter signed by U.S. sports federations pleading with Congress for relief, for the youth sports industry, from this pandemic contained statements such as “The youth sports sector plays a critical role in our economy and the development of our youth but has faced particularly severe consequences as a result of the coronavirus and resulting national emergency”.

When we do return to play parents will still have many things to consider. First, will they believe and trust that all of us who they entrust their precious children with, will in fact keep their athlete(s) safe? Second, will families in the aftermath of this pandemic have the discretionary funds to allow their children to, in fact, return to participate in sports?

Until we are back to actively participating in sports, let us continue to protect the safety of our athletes, their families and everyone who participates on any level in our programs and or in our programs. We will be back, and we will return when it is determined to be ethically and scientifically the right thing to do.

Stay safe and stay well!

Jim Fox, CEO Island Garden and Lightning Basketball, Governor of NY Metropolitan AAU
Karen Cammer, Administrative Director of Island Garden and Lightning Basketball
Tom Sigismonti, Operations Director of Lightning and Island Garden
Jimmy Fox, Technical Director of Lightning Basketball


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