2020 STATE SPIRIT, SPRING SPORTS & ACTIVITIES CANCELLED – Q & A WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ
Based on the recent directive from the New Mexico Public Education Department that schools will close for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, the NMAA and its Board of Directors have cancelled the 2020 State Spirit Championships, the 2020 Spring Sports Season, and all remaining activities for the current school year. This cancellation applies to practices/workouts, in addition to contests/events.
Due to the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, the Public Education Department has closed schools and additionally addressed interscholastic athletics/activities as part of this process. Dr. Ryan Stewart of the Public Education Department said the following during a press conference earlier today, “We’ve been in close touch with the NMAA throughout this. They’ve been a really great partner and have been very much supportive of making sure that we are keeping our student athletes and students who are participating in activities safe.” Secretary Stewart later added, “for the rest of the year, all athletic activities and similar activities sponsored by the NMAA are cancelled.”
The NMAA Board of Directors will hold a Special Meeting in early May to discuss summer regulations pertaining to practices/camps/conditioning and scholastic eligibility for the 2020-2021 school year.
Questions and Answers with NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez
What was your initial reaction when the decision was made by the Public Education Department to extend the restrictions through the entire school year resulting in the cancellation of spring sports and the 2020 State Spirit Competition?
Sad. I think that’s the easiest word I can use. You prepare for it. In my mind, I knew it could happen. But when the word came out that, yes, we weren’t going to have spring sports, it was devastating. I knew it was going to affect kids. I knew it would especially affect the seniors and I was sad. Personally, I had some investment, as well, with my son being a senior and coaching all his friends growing up. So, I can go back to it personally and know the gut-wrenching feeling that was going to take place when we announced it.
What does this mean for practice and if or when teams can start working out?
As the Secretary of Education did state in that address, all spring sports/all activities were cancelled and in there he did include practice. So, at this time, all practice is cancelled along with spring sports.
State spirit was the only winter sport that didn’t get to compete at a state competition. Was there any thought into holding some sort of event with restrictions in place?
That was the one event that I knew that if we could pull something off it would be spirit. The reason I say that is, yes, they’ve had this whole entire year and they had not had their culminating state championship. In the other sports, we would have needed 3,4,5 weeks to host games and to figure out what our state championship would look like. But in spirit, once we got them back in the gym and in shape and ready to go, we could have held a competition. So, I knew that the timeline for spirit was much shorter than the other sports. But once again, when the Secretary of Education, the Governor and, in the crisis that we’re in right now, we had to cancel spring sports, so it was the right thing to do to also cancel spirit.
Will any of the spring sports or events be rescheduled? Will any events be made up in the fall?
No. Our Board of Directors affirmed what the Secretary of Education and the Public Education Department have come up with that all spring sports/practices/games/events, everything has been cancelled for the remainder of the school year.
With the cancellation of spring sports, what does that mean for eligibility of returning student athletes next year?
We’re working on that. Our Board of Directors moved up their board meeting. Usually, we have one at the end of May/beginning or June. We have moved that board meeting up to the beginning of May. I asked them to do that because I do need to get information out there in regards to scholastic eligibility. When you go to a pass/fail format, things change. We don’t even know if they’ll be able to have summer school. So, those kids that may have gotten an F, they at least had a chance to make up that class in summer. We don‘t even know if that will take place. For all the coaches and athletic directors, I am aware. I do know there needs to be some adjustment and we will have something out in early May that the Board of Directors will be able to vote on.
How do you plan to proceed from here?
First off, I think we proceed as normal. Financially, we did take a big hit. Somebody asked, “How did you think about doing an emergency fund and reserve?”. Actually, it was Katrina. When Hurricane Katrina happened and we saw the devastation that happened in Louisiana and that Association was not prepared for it, it was at that time, Gary Tripp was the (NMAA) Executive Director, I went to him and I said ‘I think we need to have an emergency fund’. Since that time, we have put money in place if we had an emergency such as this so that we would be financially stable. So, we are financially stable and we will start up once the Governor, once the Public Education Department, once the federal government says its ok then we will get back up and get ready for fall sports.
Thousands of kids in New Mexico had their spring sports or activities cut short. Many of them won’t compete at the next level and this would have been their final opportunity to play organized sports. What’s your message to the student athletes of New Mexico?
I think the message to all student athletes, not just the seniors but all student athletes, is we need to live each day to do our finest. We never know what’s going to happen the next day. I know we talk about setting goals, long term goals and short term goals, and learning about life through athletics. This is life. There was a tweet that came out from a student athlete right after it was announced. Basically, it said ending the season like this is not what he wanted. But the one message he said is that “if I can hug my grandparents and we can all stay healthy and happy and have a future, then it’s worth not playing sports or going to prom.” I thought, within his words, that is the message we are at. We are in this together. We have to wake up every single day and be happy that we are alive, that our families are healthy and they’re happy and we need to give our mom, dad, brother, and sister a hug and realize that together we can get through this. Things happen in life. Whoever thought that this would happen? In my wildest dreams, in my career, nothing like this has ever happened. So, how are we going to get through that? I think in the end, once things go back to normal and our senior student athletes are going on to college or going onto their next step in their lives, and our athletes that are younger, I truly believe that they will be stronger and anything that comes their way they are going to be able to tackle. To all the coaches out there, they need you. Our student athletes need you now more than ever at this time. I’m sure you taught them how to hit the ball and throw a ball and run and do all sorts of things. But it is this time as adults and as coaches and as administrators and teachers that we need to step up. We need to be the leaders for our kids to show them that it’s going to be ok and we’re going to be alright.