WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ NOVEMBER 2, 2020
New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions about the return to athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year. Here is this week’s interview.
Last week we talked about where some sports have been moved to on the calendar. Some questions have come up regarding volleyball. Does the high school volleyball season now conflict with the club season and how much consideration was put into club seasons?
Currently, it does conflict with the club season. We’ve been getting a lot of questions from club volleyball parents asking if we can have the high school volleyball season in May and June after the club season. We can’t move volleyball to May and June. We have over 140 volleyball teams. Of those 140, I would say about 100 of them do not have club players and they have multi-sport athletes. So, when we placed volleyball, we had to place it in a part of the calendar where kids would be able to participate in basketball and their spring sport, track and field or softball. That is why we needed to put it right in between. It’s not ideal, but we need to make sure we’re doing what’s best for all student athletes.
Will the NMAA change the maximum number of matches a student can play during that time?
We’re still looking at that. I am working with the club world and we’re trying to figure out what we do. Right now, at the beginning of November, it’s still too early to decide what’s going to happen in March. Will we get to play more games? Is it going to conflict? Can they go to tournaments? Right now, we need to sit back and wait and see what is going to develop in the club world. Are they going to have the same tournaments that they had before? There’s on major tournament in Colorado. Colorado is playing high school volleyball at the same time we will and the club teams in Colorado have decided they will not play any games during that time. So, we don’t even know if this large club tournament in Colorado is going to happen. Another consideration is the quarantine. Let’s say we told them ‘yes, you can leave to go club play club volleyball tournaments out of state’, if we still have 14-day quarantine guidelines then they can’t come back and play high school volleyball. There’s so many entities that we need to wait on and relax and wait and see as it gets closer to March.
A national study out of Wisconsin has gotten a lot of attention lately saying that high school sports have not spread the coronavirus. Where does the NMAA stand on that theory?
That is a very good study. We did our own survey. It wasn’t scientific. I will never sit here and say it was scientific. We just decided to ask our schools how many kids participated in the 9:1 pods, we did the survey back when it was 9:1. We also asked, of those kids, how many had COVID. And of those kids that had COVID, how many spread it between each other in the pods? We were just looking to see what the data was, in order to see if our guidelines were effective. After that survey, it does show that our guidelines are very similar to that Wisconsin study. We want to look at that study to see if it would be helpful for New Mexico. What we do know from our survey is that the guidelines and the protocols that we have put in place are effective to keeping kids safe.
Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen protests by parents and athletes, the NMAA Student Leadership Advisory Council put together a message to send to the governor, schools like Clovis produced a video asking the governor to ‘Let US Play’. Do you think those actions are helping the cause to try and get high school athletes back on the field?
I hope the governor is listening. This is not coming from the NMAA, this is coming from our local kids. Our kids are tired and they want to play. It’s coming from our coaches, it’s coming from athletic directors, it’s not coming from our office. I am very hopeful that the governor is listening as to these kids. They just want to get back into school and play sports.
Lastly, the calendar’s been changed, we’re all now waiting for the second semester to begin, what’s your focus right now as executive director of the NMAA?
I think the focus right now is to stay positive. People ask me if I’m getting tired of being positive or if it’s overkill. It’s not because our kids need to hear some positive messages. I think right now our coaches and our athletic directors need to focus on the emotional well-being of our students and make sure that they are working out, that they are doing okay. Also, because the semester is coming up around the corner, we need to focus in on the scholastics of our kids, scholastic eligibility where they have a 2.0 GPA and no Fs. We need to make sure that our athletes are passing so they are able to compete when we can in January through June. I think we need to take a step back. We are not going to play until January, as of right now. So, what can we do now to prepare for January? We need to keep the kids positive, we need to keep them upbeat, we need them to pass every single class, even though they don’t like remote learning, we need them to get in there and do their studies because ultimately that does go on a transcript. We need to stay positive because we will play again New Mexico.