WEEKLY Q&A WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ JUNE 8, 2020
New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions regarding guidelines for summer workouts following the COVID-19 health crisis. Here is this week’s interview.
Last week you talked briefly about staggered starts. Can you elaborate on how you see teams starting workouts on the 15th with pods and staggered start times?
Staggered starts, that’s one thing our coaches need to make sure they do. We cannot have “mass gatherings”. We cannot congregate all at one time. When coaches have multiple PODS going, some coaches might have five PODS on the football field and then three PODS on another field that’s eight PODS and 40 kids, that’s too many to come to the facility at one time. We are asking to please stagger those start and end times and make sure you tell your kids to get there and get to your POD and then you leave. The staggered times are very crucial when you have multiple PODS.
The guidelines say a coach cannot move from one POD to another during a workout. What about the kids? Can they change PODS?
The kids cannot change PODS. Once they have a POD, they need to stay there. The reason is because we need to limit the amount of kids an athlete is exposed to. If we have one kid surrounded by four other kids and a coach, then if something happens with COVID-19, then the pandemic is isolated. That way we don’t have that kid going to multiple PODS and there’s a lot of kids exposed. That is the reasoning for keeping the kids in the same POD so they are with the same kids all the time.
In our last interview session, you said the COVID-19 test for coaches must be within 72 hours of the start date. What has changed?
That has changed. Last Monday, I was told some communities would take 5, 6, 7 days to get those test results back. I did reach out to the Governor’s office and in many communities it is taking longer than 72 hours. What we are now saying is take the COVID test as close to the start date as possible within your community. You should know, within your community, how long it’s taking to get those tests back. There are some communities that are bringing in someone to test all coaches. That is fine. Just make sure that it’s close to the start date. If you did take one in April, and now we are starting June 15th, you do need to take another one.
The Governor has directed that the “vulnerable” are still under “stay at home” orders. If a coach or athlete is “vulnerable,” can they still participate in summer workouts?
I am going t put it back on the school. If you that coach is wanting to come to practice and is able to come to practice and there’s no liability concerns, then that will be a school decision whether those vulnerable coaches or athletes are able to participate.
Are there guidelines on how to clean and sanitize equipment like basketballs for each individual?
There are guidelines and I’m still working on that. I plan to have a document out to our athletic directors as to the guidelines, like alcohol wipes are not good to use for volleyballs, there’s a solution with part water and part alcohol, we will. Have those guidelines out to help the schools. When we start using the equipment, we are going to need to sanitize properly, so we will help the schools and get those guidelines for them.
What kind of guidelines are in place for filling up water bottles during workouts?
One thing you have to be really prepared for is not having a water fountain. Each kid should have their own water bottle. When we first did the guidelines, we knew that a water bottle was not enough sufficient water. We suggested a gallon, but that’s not realistic. My suggestion is every kid has their own water bottle and then if they need to refill it, refill it and wipe it down and have each kid fill up the water bottle themselves. We need to make sure all these kids have water. It is hot out there so you need to make sure there’s a place they can go to fill up the water bottles.
Since the NMAA is regulating summer activities, are the coaches limited to 7.5 hours per week as is done in the off season?
No, they are not. These are guidelines and the schools need to work within those guidelines and there is nothing about how many hours they can practice, that’s a school decision. There are a lot of schools that may do fall sports, some may do the winter and spring sports now and bring the fall in July. Again, that is a school decision. You don’t need to worry about how many hours you have contact with your kids.
We’ve talked about athletic teams and guidelines for their workouts. What about groups like marching band and JROTC? What sort of guidelines do they follow?
They’ve reached out for guidance. We do not regulate marching band, but they are part of the school environment. They need to follow the same guidelines that we do with equipment, PODS, social distancing. I would suggest marching band and JROTC to take the guidelines and work within the guidelines and they can begin working with their kids as well.
We have set up these guidelines for summer workouts, we have heard some people refer to this as open gym, what is the difference between the two, if any?
This weekend I saw a post on social media that said ‘volleyball open gym starting June 15th’ and that’s a concern because ‘open gym‘ is a free for all. Coaches need to make sure they know who is showing up to the gym, when they are showing up to the gym, and that they are put in PODS and there’s some guidance. Remember, if there are three PODS, there needs to be three coaches. When you say ‘open gym’, you don’t know who is showing up. Coaches, I suggest what you do is reach out, if there are incoming 9th graders, and make sure you know who is showing up. Before they get there, you already have it organized as to what kid is going to which POD. We cannot have kids come to the gym and stand in a group and wait for a coach to say ‘go to this POD’ or ‘go to that POD’. Coaches, you need to make sure you’re organized and you have it ready. You cannot just say it’s ‘open gym’, it needs to be organized.
The NMAA released the summer guidelines on May 28th, so do you foresee any changes to those guideline before the June 15th date?
I do. The last press conference the Governor had she opened up gyms at 50% capacity. The first thing I did was reach out to the Secretary of Education and Governor’s office and asked ‘if gyms are at 50% capacity, what about high school gyms?’ In some communities, that’s the gym for the community. I am working on that at this time with weightrooms, whether that’s being able to go in there June 15th or at the latest June 22nd. I’m also working on the use of equipment. We just need to make sure we do this correctly. I am working on that, so by June 15th there could be changes. At this time, we still have a 5:1 ratio, until I hear that we can get in groups of ten, we are still in groups of 5:1 on June 15th.
Lastly we are one week away from the start of summer workout what are you hearing from Athletic Directors and/or coaches about getting prepared for that to begin?
It’s been tough. When they heard the guidelines I think they were excited, but there are a lot of restrictions, the thermometer checks, sanitation, making sure they are in PODS, how many PODS you can have. I know it’s frustrating and I know people just want to get going. But as I’ve been saying since the beginning, we need to take baby steps. If we do it right now, then we will be able to play in August. If we don’t do it right now and show that we can’t do this in a good, clean and safe environment, then we’re not going to be able to play in August. I know there’s frustration out there. There are club teams, there are parents taking 7-8 kids and equipment and doing things on their own. I cannot control parents and I cannot control the club world. All I can say to you is YOU can control your parents and you can control what you athletes are doing. We need to make sure we do this correctly. I’m not saying there are people doing it wrong, there are a lot of people following these guidelines to the T, but yesterday I got an email of a club softball tournament here in the metro area at Alameda Little League. Coaches are frustrated wondering why those kinds of things are going on when it doesn’t follow the Governor’s orders. We cannot worry about what everybody else is doing. We need to worry about what education-based athletics is doing. Ultimately, when school begins, if we can show them what we can do this summer, it’s going to help them realize that school can begin. When school begins, we are going to be able to play this fall. Make sure to realize the ultimate goal. Our long term goal right now is to play fall sports. Our short term goals are the ones that happen daily. If we do the short term goals correctly, then we are going to play again and that’s our long term goal.
Here is the Q&A from June 1, 2020.
Here is the interview with Sally Marquez immediately following the Board of Directors meeting on May 28, 2020.