WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ NOVEMBER 9, 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.
This is the first week we’ve had schools participate in powerlifting. What kind of response have you seen?
The response has been fantastic. Last week was the first week we had virtual competitions and we are getting the results in this week. We have over 400 kids participating and we expect more. This is the first week and I think people were trying it to see what it would be like. We will put the results on our website to find out who’s the top lifter in each category and classification and I think it will drum up more excitement and hopefully more kids will want to participate. It has been successful and we think it’s going to grow and grow every single month.
What do you tell the student athletes about symptoms of COVID and coming to practice?
This is one of our main messages today. That is the problem we are having within the pods. We rarely have students that are testing positive for COVID, or that has been exposed to COVID. However, when the kids are coming to practice and the coaches are asking them the medical questions, these kids are not telling the truth. They are coming to practice and then finding out a week later that mom or dad had COVID or they had been exposed prior to them coming to practice. The message is that we have to be honest. I said this a few weeks ago, we are not in the age anymore where if you’re sick let’s tough it out and go to practice. If you have any symptoms, or if you have been around somebody who has COVID, or even if you’ve been around someone you think had COVID, you need to make sure you’re honest and not show up to practice. Instead of missing one day of practice to make sure that the person you were exposed to does not have COVID or you quarantine a little bit, if you show up to practice all it does is make your teammates, your pod, now all of these kids have to shut down for 14 days. You’re not helping the team at all. I encourage athletes, please be honest. We are going to talk to athletic directors and the one thing I’m going to ask them is do we need to put a bylaw in place for this year that if we find out a kid is not honest when they answer the questions, maybe they’re not part of the team any more. That’s something we really need to talk about. Kids, you have to be honest in order to protect your teammates.
The governor said last week that if the COVID numbers keep increasing, more drastic measures could be ahead for the public health order. Would that jeopardize a possible start for athletics in January?
Our COVID numbers statewide have to come down, in order for basketball to start on January 4th. We have January 4 as the start date for basketball and swimming and diving, however, if our numbers do not come down then we are not going to get the go ahead in order to start on January 4. We just mentioned about the kids being honest, everyone in the communities has to wear a mask and we have to social distance. Thanksgiving is coming around, Christmas is coming around and we have to be smart. We have to all get together and do what’s right. The numbers and the cases have to come down in order for us to begin sports on January 4th.
It’s now been a couple months since the NMAA launched their Mental Health Awareness initiative. How has it been going and do you have any future plans in the coming months?
It’s hard to answer how it’s been going. But I have been hearing the media, in the communities, athletic directors, our student leadership advisory council, I have heard more and more people talking about mental health. That was the idea from the beginning, we need to get rid of the stigma of mental health and let people know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out because you need help. Because I hear it a little bit more in the community from kids and athletic directors and coaches, I really believe that we have made a difference and we are going to keep going on our Wellness Wednesdays.
Finally, last week you talked about the NMAA’s focus right now and staying positive. How have the last couple months been for you personally? Is it tough to stay positive?
The people who know me personally know that I’m an open book and I am not going to hide anything. Honestly, for me, it has been difficult. It has been a trying eight months. However, when you look at the end result of allowing these kids to participate in the 2020-2021 school year, I’m not going to stop. Some mornings you wake up and it’s hard and some mornings you read stories and you start doubting, and I’m sure kids are feeling this way and coaches are feeling this way. But what we can do when we have those moments, and when I feel those emotions, I start to look at the light at the end of the tunnel that this is for the kids. I am not stopping seven months in it. I will give everything I can in order to make sure our student athletes and their social and emotional well-being is our first priority. We also have to make scholastics a priority and I will do everything I can to make sure that we play again New Mexico.