WEEKLY Q&A INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ AUGUST 31, 2020
New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions about the return to high school athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year. Here is the latest interview.
The Governor has changed some of the guidelines for the state. One of those is about the size of gatherings. The Governor recently changed the mass gathering number to 10. Does that mean that teams can work out in pods of 9:1?
That doesn’t change anything that we are doing. Our regulations are under youth sports and at this time youth sports are still 5:1 and those no contact sports of wrestling, basketball, football and soccer are still not able to work out. We do not follow 9:1 or 10:1 with the mass gatherings. We are still at a 5:1 ratio.
Are quarantine restrictions still in effect for any students, coaches or families that travel out of state?
They are. At this point, we are still at a 14-day quarantine whether you fly or drive out of state. When you come back into the state, you are at a 14-day quarantine. However, if you leave the state for 24-hours for parental reasons or you have a doctor’s appointment, then you do not have to quarantine. Our student athletes, especially those club athletes that are going out of state or they are going with their families out of state for Labor Day weekend will need to quarantine for 14 days.
Are masks still required for physical activity?
They are. That has not changed in the Governor’s last address, she did not change exercise. So, at this time, we are still mask wearing all times, even during exercise and that is for our cross country runners as well.
Have any of the start dates for fall sports changed?
We are at October 5th. At the beginning of the summer, we had fall golf and cross country starting in September. But since we are in remote learning, and by the time those high schoolers get back, we have shifted all sports to begin on October 5th.
There have been some changes in cross country. How will state be run and is it a one-day event?
The whole season has changed. In cross country, we cannot have the massive amounts on the starting line. We cannot congregate all those kids. So, we have a lot of changes happening in cross country. During the regular season you’re going to see that our meets are going to be smaller and there’s going to be a lot of meets that have staggered times so kids will run and then they leave the course and somebody else comes and runs. So, we’re going to have a lot of changes in the regular season. As far as state is concerned, we are going to go to two days. There will be four races on Friday and four races on Saturday and that is to limit the amount of kids that are there at one time. On that starting line at state, we usually have 100 to 120, 130 athletes running at one time in a race and we just cannot do that. Instead of having our traditional seven runners from a team in a race, we are now going to go down to five runners per team. Also, we usually have three qualify out of the districts, we are now going to have two. We are going to limit the number of kids that can run in the state meet.
Lastly, the NMAA recently started a Mental Health Awareness Campaign. What prompted that idea and why is it so important?
Before COVID-19 happened, the NMAA had already started thinking about mental health awareness. There had been some suicides among athletes and among students within New Mexico. So, we started working with the Department of Health to go through some mental health training. Then COVID-19 hit and we had to put a standstill on that. Now in June and July, when kids were starting to get sedentary and there was no interaction with coaches and their sports were gone, we did see some uptick in depression and suicide and some of the mental health issues that are going on with our student athletes. So, it is time that we need to rev back up and make sure that we have awareness out there, from a crisis hotline to trying to get rid of the stigma of mental health and try to get kids to understand there are people out there are there to help them. Right now, with athletics and activities, we need to get our coaches involved, we need to get our sponsors involved, and we need to make sure that our students are well cared for and that they understand that they matter. Today, we are going to kick off this mental health awareness campaign, every Wednesday we are going to have Wellness Wednesdays. We are going to do this all year because it is so important that the kids understand that they matter and they are cared for. In this time when we are a little bit sedentary and worried about if we’re going to have sports, it’s a great time to say ‘You Matter’ and we are going to play sports again New Mexico.