WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ NOVEMBER 23, 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.
Since last week’s interview, Secretary Ryan Stewart held a virtual press conference where he discussed athletics and activities and talked about if schools can work out in 4:1 pods or if they would have to stop workouts. Can you clarify what the ruling is for athletic programs?
The ruling is schools remain the same as they were prior to the latest announcement. Yes, we can still work out in our 4:1 pods. Right now, with the numbers skyrocketing, we need to make sure we follow our guidelines and we’re safe. The administrators at the school will determine whether they want to continue to work out in the 4:1 pods or not.
You had said during last week’s interview that athletes could not work out in those 4:1 pods during the holiday break. Does that include powerlifting?
Powerlifting is ‘in-season’. Our ‘out of season’ guidelines say that when school is not in session we cannot work out. However, powerlifting is ‘in-season’. Those athletes that are competing in powerlifting virtually can work out over the break. However, that doesn’t mean the football team. If they are not going to compete in powerlifting, then they are considered ‘out of season’ and they cannot work out. The only ones who are able to work out over the Thanksgiving break, and the winter break, are the powerlifters.
You’ve been working on sliding some start dates around on the calendar. Why are they being changed and what will the “new” schedule for athletics look like?
We learned a lot from fall sports. Fall sports was a week into their practice and then all of a sudden we were not able to compete. In learning that, we want to make sure we’re proactive this time around. January 4th is the start date for basketball, swimming and diving. Is it realistic that we’re going to start on January 4th? With our cases rising, and school districts are voting not to get back into hybrid until mid-January, it’s probably a situation where January 4th is going to be a stretch. So, we are looking at the calendar to see if we can shift it to make sure this is our last shift and we are able to start. So, maybe it will be a February 1st start date. We are still looking to play every single sport in the 2020-2021 school year.
Esports, an activity that students have been competing in this year, is adding a couple games. What games are being added and what sort of feedback have you been getting regarding Esports?
It’s exciting. All the state associations nationwide have been asking if we can add some sports games. FIFA ’21 and Madden ’21 are going to be added for the spring competition. That will go along with what we’ve already had with League of Legends, Rocket League and Smite. We are excited to add these games. We had a fall season and we’re going to rev it back up in the beginning of February for a spring season and we will have a championship with five quality games.
The holidays are here. If a person goes out of state for the holiday, the public health order says there is a 14-day quarantine. Can student-athletes and coaches still attend practice in those 4:1 pods immediately when they return?
A 14-day quarantine means No. We’ve been talking about these kids being honest as to what’s going on in their household. If they’re traveling for Thanksgiving break, or if anyone is coming from out of state into their household, there needs to be a 14-day quarantine. Be honest athletes, after Thanksgiving break, when practices resume again, make sure that you let people know if you’ve gone out of state or if someone has come into your household from out of state because you need to quarantine for 14-days and not come to practice.
What kind of concern do you have for the accuracy of those pre-workout COVID questions students are being asked about being sick or exposed?
Like I said in the last questions, we need our athletes to be honest. That is where we are getting a lot of the COVID-19 into the schools is when it’s coming from the outside, that includes athletics and our 4:1 pods. When the athletes come to work out and they’re asked those questions, they do need to be honest. If they have any symptom, that’s even a sore throat, then don’t come to practice. If you’ve been exposed to COVID, make sure you let your coach know. We have been working with our coaches to make sure they let their athletes know that it’s best to honest than to come to practice. All you are doing when you come to practice in those situations is exposing your teammates and then the whole team is going to have to shut down. Once again, student athletes make sure you answer those questions honestly in order to protect everybody around you.
Lastly, what we’ve been hearing from a lot of coaches and athletic directors is the toughest thing for the kids over the past couple months is they feel like the rug is being pulled out from underneath them with expectations of a season followed by a delay. What can you say to them to keep them positive and hopeful?
Yes, it is tough. In athletics, we have short term goals, and those are daily goals or weekly goals, to make sure we get our long-term goal. A lot of times in sports, that’s the state championship. What do we do daily and weekly to get to that state championship? It’s the same concept. Our long-term goal is everybody gets to play the sports they love in the 2020-2021 school year. That has not changed, I’ve been saying that since April, May, June and all the way through. I have been saying that’s the goal. Now, we need to work daily and weekly to make sure we attain that goal. Right now, cases are rising. Is a start date of January 4th realistic? Probably not, the way we are going with the cases. We need to bring those cases down and then we can play in New Mexico. Is the rug being pulled out from underneath them? No. We are just shifting our short-term goals to make sure we keep the long-term goal. If January 4th is not the start date and we start in February, we are still going to play. To those student athletes and coaches, remain positive because the long-term goal is there to play sports in New Mexico and we will continue to work every single day, every single week, to make sure that we play again in New Mexico.