WEEKLY Q&A WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ MAY 28, 2020
On Thursday, the New Mexico Activities Association Board of Directors passed by a vote of 8-4 that during 2020, summer activities can begin on June 15th. If a school/school district opts to allow for summer activities to take place, the guidelines produced by the NMAA must be followed. These guidelines are based on the public health orders set by the Governor of New Mexico and will be updated accordingly. Schools/school districts can implement a later start date and/or stricter guidelines.
NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez answers several questions about the guidelines and the future of high school athletics and activities.
The NMAA has been asked by the schools to come up with guidelines for summer workouts. Before we go through them all, how did you come up with these?
The National Federation, which is our national governing body, came up with guidelines for every association and we could take what they gave us or we could tweak it for what our Governor was doing. That was our starting point. From there, we have a bylaws committee which is made up of athletic directors and we met and we talked about the guidelines. We went through the guidelines that the national federation gave us, with our Governor’s orders, we spoke to the Governor’s office, the Secretary of Education, our Board of Directors and these are the guidelines that we knew we could do safely for our student athletes at this point where we are in New Mexico, in Phase One.
Let’s start with a timeline. When can students begin to workout in small groups?
The Board of Directors just recently voted for June 15th. We had other dates out there. Last Friday, I sent out a survey to all our schools. We had June 15th, June 29th and July 6th and we put it to vote, asking the schools as to what date they would want to start under these guidelines, if the Governor was still in Phase 1 at that time. Once we received all the survey results, and it was close, the majority of our schools wanted to begin on June 15th.
Does every coach need to have a COVID-19 test and do they need to wear a mask when working with kids?
Yes. Every coach, when they’re working in a 5:1 group, would need to have a COVID-19 test before they start working with kids. Within the guidelines, the students and the coach must have a temperature check and some other medical awareness every single day. The coach must test negative for COVID-19 before starting to work out with these kids on June 15th. They also must wear multi-layered masks in order to work with the kids. The kids do not have to wear the masks as they are working out. The kids should be prepared to wear a mask to the facility, as they exercise they are not required to wear a mask, and when they leave the facility because they are in a public environment, under the Governor’s orders, they should have a mask on.
What does each student-athlete need to do before they can workout?
A temperature check. The coach needs to make sure they give guidance to the student-athlete as to how that temperature is going to be checked, that is up to the school. We send these guidelines out, but it is dependent on the school on how they are going to make this work. Is the temperature check going to happen right when the kid gets to school? How are the kids going to come to school? Is the parent going to take them to school? You have to watch that, too. What if a kid runs two miles to get to practice and they’re heated? When are you going to take their temperature? There are some guidelines, but the coach needs to get some medical advice, athletic trainer’s advice, on how the temperature is going to be checked. Every day the student is going to come in and have their temperature checked. There’s going to be a form the coaches will fill out and ask the kids five different questions. Have you been around someone that has COVID-19? Do you have a cough? Do you have a sore throat? Those are some questions that the kids are going to have to answer yes or no before they are allowed to work out.
Can athletes and teams use the weightroom?
In Phase 1, no. The weightroom is off limits at this time for Phase 1. When we get to Phase 2, yes we will allow them into weightrooms. But at this point, with all the restrictions that will be happening, the committee felt it was best to wait until Phase 2 to get the kids in the weightroom. A question we received is ‘Can they bring the weights outside?’ and that’s up to the school. They cannot bring it from the weightroom to another part of the building. If they want to bring the dumbbells out of the weightroom to the outdoors, that is a school decision.
Can the kids have any physical contact?
They cannot. We are still social distancing in everything we do. They are going to have individual workouts. They are going to be apart from each other. They cannot have contact with anybody else. A lot of it is going to be conditioning. It’s not going to be your typical practice, but the kids are going to get out there and they’re going to be able to be with their coaches. We have in the guidelines a 5:1 ratio, we have ‘pods’. Within the pods you have to be social distanced, then you have to be social distanced from one pod to the other. Coaches and athletic directors are going to have to figure out the area they are going to work in and how many pods they can have in that area to still maintain social distancing.
How long with Phase 1 of these guidelines last?
That’s a question we do not know and that will come from the Governor’s office. When the Governor goes to Phase 2 and we are beyond the 5:1 ratio, then we will give out the directions for Phase 2 to our athletic directors. The guidelines that are posted online at this time do not have Phase 2. We do have Phase 2 for weightrooms that the coaches can see. We wanted to make sure they knew when that was going to happen. As far as the other guidelines for Phase 2, we are going to get those out once the Governor starts moving to Phase 2. We will make sure to get those out to the coaches and athletic directors.
These are listed as guidelines. What happens when a program or coach or school doesn’t follow these guidelines?
They are guidelines. Can a school be stricter? Yes. We say June 15th. Does a school have to start workouts on June 15th? No. They can start in July. They can start any time after June 15th. I do firmly believe a lot of our schools are going to start after June 15th. They’re not all going to start on that date. There’s a lot of preparation that needs to take place. They are guidelines, but they cannot loosen those guidelines. They can go stricter. What are the consequences? We will work through that with the athletic directors, but we want to make sure we are all on a level playing field. We all need to be safe. What we do now is going to dictate when we go to Phase 2 and Phase 3 and Fall Sports. Everything will dictate from one thing to the other. We need to make sure we stay within the guidelines because the reward is going to happen. If you loosen those guidelines from what we’ve given out, then there are going to be penalties and consequences.
What about physicals? Will every student-athlete need a physical to participate in athletics in the fall?
The Board of Directors voted that physicals from the 2019-2020 school year can be used for 2020-21. However, there are some conditions that would make a student have to get a physical. Do they have a recent injury? Do they have COVID-19? Has there been any new medical diagnosis since last year? Those are some of the reasons that somebody would have to get a physical. Or if they are new to sports, and haven’t played. A lot of the 7th graders who haven’t played middle school sports would have to get a physical or 8th or 9th graders that are playing high school sports for the first time. We will also take physicals from out of state if somebody is transferring in. There are certain guidelines as to what we can and cannot accept for physicals. We will also create a form that parents have to sign in regards to ‘no medical diagnosis’, ‘no injuries’ and so on and so forth.
Will all Fall Sports start at the same time or is there a chance one sport could start earlier than others?
Those are questions we still don’t know the answer to. What I want to say to everybody out there is we will have sports. One thing I’m focusing in on is to make sure we have every single sport that we offer that we are able to have those next year. What’s the timeline? That I do not know. It’s going to depend on are we in school, are we not in school, do we have another spike in cases, it’s going to be dependent on all that. What I can tell everybody is I’m going to do everything I can to have every single sport next year at one time or another. We have scenarios like do we have them January-thru-June. Do we have them October through June? Right now, my hope is in August we start and we’re going to see what that looks like. Do we have fans in stands? Are we going to have a limit of 100 at an event? Until it comes from the Governor’s Office, or the Secretary of Education, or Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales or myself, all of the stuff out there is rumor. We will work with the Governor to make sure that we can have sports. We’re not only talking about sports. Yesterday I met to talk band, music, the arts, there is so much more to this than sports. It’s about having art, ceramics, choir, band, and we can go on and on about the arts, so there’s so much more to it than sports. I am working with those activity people as well to make sure we have those activities for the kids. Social, mental and emotional well-being for students is so important.
We have a start date for summer activities; we have guidelines set in place for Phase 1. What’s your message to the students and coaches at this point?
My message is that it’s a beginning. We need to continue to stay positive. Anytime we see a Tweet on social media that we’re not having school or we’re not having sports, all that does is put negative thoughts in people’s minds. At this point, we need to stay positive. My thoughts are that we are going to have these activities and athletics for student athletes, that we’re going to get back to some normalcy. Sports and activities are so important for kids. We need to stay positive. Coaches, I beg you stay in the guidelines. I know you’re frustrated. We sometimes talk about what Texas, Arizona and Colorado and what they’re doing. We need to focus in on what we’re doing. We need to do it right. We will play again New Mexico. I always have that in my head every single day we make decisions. Right now, the only thing I’m thinking about is we will play again.