WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ JUNE 15, 2020
Each week, New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions regarding the guidelines in place for the return of summer workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is this week’s interview.
Some programs are beginning summer workouts, others are still waiting to begin. We have a lot of questions to get to. First, there was a change to the guidelines when it comes to weight rooms. What are the new guidelines?
Everything is ever changing. We just have to keep up with the Governor’s office and what is going on and where we can open up so on and so forth. Today is the first day that student-athletes are allowed to workout with the coaches if they want to. Student-athletes have a choice and the schools have a choice on what date they want to start. The guidelines that have changed regarding the weight room is student-athletes now are able to get into the weight room, 50% capacity with social distancing, no heavy lifting, no spotters just getting into the weight room and doing a lot of reps.
What are the suggested guidelines for sanitation and cleaning of equipment such as Volleyballs? And who will provide those cleaning supplies?
Cleaning supplies will be provided by the school along with thermometers and PPE equipment. Schools may not be ready to start today because we need to make sure that we have all of these supplies. Saying that, for example, a volleyball, it is not good to wipe a volleyball with a 100% alcohol wipes. They need to be maybe 75% alcohol and 25% water and the Clorox and Lysol wipes are virtually 75%-25% alcohol and water. So a coach really needs to make sure that it’s not 100% alcohol. What are those guidelines? I can send to the athletic directors what the National Federation is saying what to clean with, but again it will ultimately be up to the school to make those determinations how they are going to sanitize their equipment.
Are parents allowed to watch or be present at these workouts? What about volunteer coaches? What about media members? Are they allowed at workouts?
At this point, we need to really minimize volunteers that are not approved through the school district. We need to not have parents out there and we need to make sure we are in the 5 to 1 pods, there is nobody else around. As far as media, that is kind of a local decision. I would say for interviews—interview before practice or after practice and not let the media walk around because again we want to minimize who is in that controlled environment. However, if the media wants to take pictures from afar, then leave, that is fine. Again, just work with your local media to make sure that you are satisfying their needs and keeping things safe. As far as parents, at this time, I know parents like to watch practice and I think this is going to be the hardest thing, but this environment is totally controlled. 5 to 1, we know who is around and so it’s best for the parents not to be around. Also, volunteer coaches that are approved is fine, but to have an ex-athlete out watching a pod,not going through the proper procedures, is not a good practice.
Do coaches have to wear masks?
The simple answer is yes. Everybody needs to wear a mask, even the student-athletes coming from their cars to the workout except for when you are exercising. Right now, that is the Governor’s orders that in public everyone has a mask except to exercise.
Does every POD need a coach? Can a coach work with multiple PODS in a day?
That’s the big question is pods, can coaches switch pods? Can they stay in one pod? What’s the situation? The idea of pods is to minimize who a student-athlete is in contact with. We don’t need a student-athlete being in contact with 15-20 different people. It should be 5 to 1, at this point, so that’s the idea of the pod. Now on a single day with coaches, they should stay in the same pod with the 5 kids. Coaches should not be rotating pods whatsoever. However, if you have a group from 9 in the morning to 10 and another group is coming in from 10:30 to 11:30 that coach can work with another pod. But during that hour or 2-hour practice, that coach needs to stay with the same group.
Does the same coach have to be with the same POD every day?
I don’t want to micromanage these coaches, but the idea is to minimize who you are in contact with. Now if a coach switches pods every single day and those athletes are coming to practice every single day, now you have a student-athlete with 5 different coaches. So, instead of 5 people he is exposed to, now you have exposed them to 10 people. So that is just not a very good idea. However, every other week you might want to switch a coach or every 2 weeks, but again I don’t want to micromanage. The idea is to minimize who that student-athlete is in contact with.
Is there a time limit for each POD?
There is not. We have our out of season coaching rules that say 7 and a half hours and everybody has asked do we have to be there 7 and a half hours Monday to Friday? No, that is up to the school district to make a decision on how long practice is, when is practice, and going back to pods, Tyler, another thing on the pods is we have multi-sport athletes. They can be in one pod for football in the morning and they can be in a different pod for basketball in the afternoon or however it is. So, those multi-sport athletes are going to be exposed to a little bit more than a one sport athlete ,but we don’t want them to stop playing all sports so they can be in different pods going from one sport to another.
Can teams use the lockerooms?
That answer is a quick no. Locker rooms are not to be used whatsoever. Training rooms can be used if the athletic trainer is in there, other than that locker rooms are off limits.
If a district isn’t starting summer workouts until later, can a coach set up virtual workouts for the kids?
That is yes. We have been saying since March work with your kids virtually, talk to your kids virtually, stay in contact with your kids virtually. Even if they come back today on the field, the coach can still do a virtual workout tomorrow with them. They don’t have to go every single day in person. I think it would be wise to get them in there and see them face-to-face and also continue virtual. That’s up to the coaches, again I don’t want to micromanage, but virtual is fine.
The majority of our conversations have been about High School Athletics and Activities. Is there going to be any information released on middle school sports this summer?
I don’t think we have really said high school and middle school. I know we talk about the high school getting the 8th through 12th graders going. That right now is our focus, but if the middle schools decide they too want to work out, they are under the exact same guidelines as the high schools.
Can football or any other sport programs utilize their athletic trainer or managers?
I would say athletic trainers yes. Managers, you need to be really careful in regards to managers. If it’s a student-athlete or a student that is a manager, are they going to be a part of the 5 in the pod? Are you going to have that student-manager go from pod to pod to pod and walk around? That is not a good idea because you are exposing that student-manager to not 5 kids, but to a lot of kids. So, if you are going to utilize a student-manager or have kids that around that are not participating, I would say that is probably not a good idea. All kids should be in a pod or not be with the coaches.
If player travels out of State what are guidelines for quarantining that individual and can a coach require that the player quarantine?
Well, right now, the Governor’s orders are if you cross the state lines you should quarantine and it is recommended that you quarantine for 14 days if you are driving. If you fly, and it’s not work related, and come back, it is required that you quarantine for 14 days per the Governor’s orders. That is that right now. What’s it going to be in August? I don’t know. What’s going to be next week? I don’t know. Currently those are the guidelines, so yes a coach should, if the kid is flying, mandate that they quarantine for 14 days. If they are driving, it is recommended but it is up to the coach and the athletic director to make a determination and a decision.
Has there been any thoughts as to playing fall sports like football in the spring?
No, not at this time. Has there been thoughts? Yes, there has been thoughts. There has been a lot of thoughts going on, but right now, as I have told the fall coaches last week, we are looking to start in August when school is in session. We are staying positive that we are going to have sports and we will make those determinations to the season, but we will not be flip flopping fall and spring sports. A lot of people say can you do spring sports now and flip flop football. I am not going to put those spring sports in any jeopardy whatsoever to not have a season. If there is any goal, besides having all sports, it is to make sure that I am taking care of those spring sport athletes. What happened to them last year was gut wrenching.
Coaches need to be tested before they begin summer workouts. Will coaches be retested for COVID-19 during the season?
At this point no. They will start with a negative COVID-19 test however. A lot of people don’t realize everyday, just as the students are being monitored by temperature, the coaches are going through that same process. So, once the coaches have done their COVID-19 tests, if they are above 100.3, the same thing as the student-athletes, they have to go to the doctor. They may have to retest, but at this point they just need that one band-aided test.
What if a player tests positive for COVID-19? What procedure should the coach follow and what is the process following that? or if any of the answers on the monitoring form are marked yes for example a sore throat should the player be sent home?
So, if any of those answers are yes, the players should be sent home right away. That player needs to go to the doctor and get checked out and see if they can return. The doctor may send them to get a COVID-19 test, that is up to the pediatrician and doctors. Now, if a student does test positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health will immediately contact the school and the coach and give them guidelines as to what to do next. If anyone has been around that student needs to be tested. There will be sanitation that needs to take place, but again, the department of health will lead from then on.
What is the timeline for size of PODS to change from a 5:1 ratio to a larger ratio?
I think it is going to change even here soon. We will be at 10:1, 15:1, 25:1, 50:1 by the time school starts, but we will change as the Governor changes or we see that it is loosening up we will change the pod sizes immediately. One of the coaches asked for football and soccer if we could get to 11:1. 11:1 is different from 10:1 as far as what the medical people are saying, but as far as the coaches are saying, it would really help getting to 11:1 so we can start working on some different things. But we will continue to update all of those especially the pod sizes.
Are any season schedules being changed at this point depending on travel distance, meet size, or playing out of state teams, etc?
I have told our athletic directors to just hold off. If we go back to where we were a month ago to now, we weren’t even thinking about when are we going to start. Now, we are actually today, starting summer workouts. So, a lot can change from today to mid-July and mid-July is where i am looking at the timeline where we will need to make some thoughts as to what we are going to do in regards to schedules. Do we have to change schedules? I’m hoping we don’t have to change schedules, but if we do I told the athletic directors lets hold off mid-July lets figure it out because I don’t want to do anything now and all of a sudden we are doing really well and we will be able to play a full season. So, let’s just wait to mid-July and at that point, we can all sit down and make determinations if things have to be changed. I am hopeful we will be ready to go just like in a normal season.
Lastly, most coaches/player and parents want to know will we have Fall Sports?
Tyler, I am very hopeful that is what my thoughts are, and talking to the Public Education Department, they are working hard to get kids back into school as well. We know parents want kids back in school. We should be able to have sports and so we just need to continue to monitor at this point. With the coaches, I said let’s be hopeful, let’s stay positive, let’s work towards that. By mid-July, that is a timeline that we will know where we are headed. We will know where we will be with school and at that time we will be able to make really strong decisions. But like I have said day 1, I do not want to go through what we went through in March when we told those spring sport athletes that they could not play. That was gut-wrenching. That was just so hard, so I am very, very hopeful and my goal is to award state championship trophies in all sports this year. If we can reward a state championship trophy at the end of the season, then we will play sports.