WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ FEBRUARY 8, 2021
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.
You’ve given schools until February 15th to declare if they will be participating in fall sports. Have a lot of schools or districts opted out? Will that create a problem in scheduling?
February 15th was a date we put out there in order to gather information. It might be the 16th or 17th until some school boards will make a decision on whether they will be able to go into hybrid learning. On February 15th we need to see who’s opting in and who’s opting out and we might have to redistrict, depending on who can play fall sports or not. Have we seen a lot of schools opt out? I think it’s still happening. This week is going to be a big week to see who is going to get in and who is not, and to see if the PED (Public Education Department) is going to maintain that hybrid learning has to take place in order to play sports. But at this time, we haven’t seen many opt out.
If a school district isn’t going into hybrid and won’t be able to play fall sports, can a student athlete transfer to another school?
At this point, our transfer bylaws have not changed. A student athlete who may want to stay in the same household and play in a neighboring district that is in hybrid learning and playing sports and want to transfer, that will not be able to happen. At this point, we are seeing how to be equitable across the board and if we open up those transfer guidelines, then everybody is going to be moving and shifting and that’s just not good for the schools. At this point, we have not changed any transfer bylaws for COVID-19.
February 22nd is the first day teams can begin practice. What if a school doesn’t go into hybrid until the 22nd, do they have to wait two weeks or can they still work out?
We have a lot of schools that aren’t going to go into hybrid until the 22nd. When I said earlier that on the 15th we need to have an idea of what’s going to happen, there’s some school districts that might not get into hybrid until the 22nd or March 1st. They will still be able to participate. With the Public Education Department and the governor’s office, there has to be a two-week period once they are in hybrid to see if any case counts arise and if not, they they will be able to compete. However, they can start practicing on February 22nd, or March 1st, whenever they come into hybrid learning, and when they make the schedules for the fall sports, they need to talk to their district schools and make sure that we get all district games in that we possible can on the day that they are able to start competing.
What if a school goes into hybrid after the fall season already started, can they still pick up and play fall sports?
Yes, we want everybody to be able to play. We might have some schools that will come in the last two weeks and that’s fine. If they want to just pick up games and play, they might not be eligible for the postseason, but they can play. We need to quit worrying about the postseason. We need to focus on getting these kids able to participate, get on the competitive playing field, and just play games. We’re worried about their social and emotional well-being and focus on that. Whenever the schools can get in, we’re going to work with them so those kids can play.
If a school opted out of playing fall sports, can they still play winter sports?
Most definitely. We want them to play as many sports as they can. So, if the school is not able to get in for fall sports, and they maybe can’t get in until the end of March and fall sports are almost over or we only have one more week, they can get back in and play winter sports. We want to be able to give all kids every opportunity. My goal has been that we are going to play all sports in the 2020-2021 school year. For some schools that may be all sports, for other schools it may be winter and spring, or it may just be spring, but that goal for everybody is to let kids play whatever sports they can once they get into hybrid learning.
When are the first games scheduled to begin?
Right now, our schedule has us ready to begin February 22nd for practice. In volleyball and cross country, they can begin competition February 27th. There’s five days of practice that needs to take place. Football beings on February 22nd as well, but they need more days to practice before games can begin. So, their first competition is March 6th. Then we have soccer which begins on March 1st for practice, then on March 6th they’ll be able to have their first competition. Again, whenever these schools get in, depending on where we are in the calendar, we want everybody to be able to participate.
Lastly, you’ve talked about this is the starting point. What’s the best way teams can make it to the finish line?
I had a conversation this morning with a friend of mine and we were talking about sports and just getting going and hybrid learning and athletics. The one thing I started to discuss is we need to make sure that our kids do everything they can to get to the finish line. We say we’re going to play all sports New Mexico. Right now we have a start, but where are we going to finish? We need to make sure that we do our COVID guidelines to a T. Everything that the governor’s office has said, and everything the NMAA has put out for COVID-safe guidelines, needs to happen. That’s mask wearing at all times, washing your hands, social distancing. It’s going to be hard for student-athletes to avoid congregating in the parking lot after practice, we’re going to have to get used to not doing that. Some like to go to a buddy’s house and just hang around with maybe 8, 9, 10 of them. That’s where COVID can come into the athletic team. We need to make sure our athletes and our kids who are involved in activities do everything correctly, not only in school and at practice, but outside of school too. I am more confident than I have ever been that we are going to play sports again New Mexico.