High school sports to return to play
Last updated 5/30/2020 at 2:28pm
High school sports in New Mexico will start to re-surface this summer after grinding to a halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it appears athletics will initially look a lot different than when they were last permitted in late winter.
Thursday, the New Mexico Activities Association released its guidance for a Phase 1 return to play, beginning June 15.
“That gives us a couple of weeks to get ready for what we need to get ready for in regard to getting all the PPE (personal protection equipment) that we need and so forth,” Clovis High Athletic Director Lonnie Baca said. “Hopefully we’ll have that in place and we can get started.”
“Me and my coaching staff, we’re just excited to have contact with the athletes,” Portales High Athletic Director Mark Gallegos said. “We know that there are restrictions, but we’re excited about having contact with our athletes. ... We’ll be making plans next week as to how we’re going to be doing that on the 15th of June.”
Among the NMAA document’s main directives, athletes working with coaches can occur in a ratio of no more than 5 to 1. Outdoors, there can only be a maximum of five groups of five people each, and the groups can’t rotate. Indoors, the maximum is three groups. And those numbers are allowed with the assumption that safe social distancing can be maintained with them; if it can’t then the numbers allowed are expected to be reduced.
All coaches have to be COVID tested before June 15. All coaches’ and players’ temperatures must be taken before every workout as part of a pre-screening process, and anyone with a temperature of more than 100.3 degrees should be sent home, NMAA has decided.
During Phase 1, athletes are to have no contact with others, there is to be no sharing of equipment, and no games or scrimmages are allowed.
Anyone who has flown out of state must self-quarantine for 14 days when they return. If they travel across state lines by means other than airplanes, individuals are only recommended to self-quarantine.
Schools are expected to create and implement “adequate cleaning schedules” for their athletic facilities, and that cleaning should include the usual steps, among them wiping down often-touched surfaces, hand-washing of at least 20 seconds, and keeping hand sanitizer readily available.
State guidelines for face coverings, which went into effect on May 16, are expected to be followed at all times.
“I’m just glad that we’re moving forward, getting something started,” Baca said.
There are also more specific guidelines. In cross country, track & field and golf, social distancing of 6 feet is required. No grouping is to be permitted in cross country and track & field.
There is to be no sharing of tennis balls in that sport; players can use their own can of balls.
Each soccer and volleyball player should use his or her own ball in practices. Soccer players are permitted to only use their feet to maneuver the ball; no headers or use of hands are allowed.
Baseball and softball players should not share gloves or bats or throw any ball that is tossed among the team. Before an athlete uses the same ball as another, the ball should be cleaned.
Basketball and football players should not use the same ball among the team in practices.
In cheerleading and dance/drill, students may not practice or perform partner stunts or building. Chants, jumps, dances and tumbling without contact, as long as physical distancing is followed, are permitted.
Swimming pools remain closed for now. And the NMAA recommends that music activities continue to be restricted while the spread of respiratory droplets during singing and the playing of wind instruments is under investigation.
So the return is coming, but with strict guidelines.
“It’s going to cause some differences in regard to how we handle dealing with athletes as well as not allowing them to have any contact when they’re throwing footballs and throwing basketballs, whatever implements they have,” Baca said. “I think it’s going to be a conditioning phase; they talk about the last three months of de-conditioning our kids. ... Getting those kids together and getting them to work out I think will be good for us.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be in Phase 1,” Baca added. “I hope we get into Phase 2 as quickly as possible. I hope we allow our student athletes as well as our coaches to do a little more than they’re going to be allowed to do right now.”
But getting back on the road to normal could be encouraging.
“The guidelines that have been put forth are up to the school districts to decide if they’re going to start on the 15th,” Gallegos said. “There may be some that don’t want to start yet. But not Portales; we want to start with our kids on the 15th.”