WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ MARCH 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.
We completed the first weekend of high school football. How did it go?
It went really well. You would see on the sidelines the teams social distancing, the mask wearing, a lot of good sportsmanship and kids out there just excited to play football.
What was your reaction last week when it was decided fans would be allowed at some high school events, depending on the color of the county and how it relates to the public health order?
I was very thankful to the governor’s office for allowing this to happen along with the Public Education Department. We did a joint press release with the PED and what I’ve been saying from the beginning is that we’re all in this together. I think they saw the need that parents need to see their kids and the value in that, not only for the kids, but the parents as well. I was very thankful. Now we are going with the red, yellow, green and turquoise. Most of the parents were able to see the outdoor sports. Now we really need to work hard to make sure we continue to wear masks, and get those cases down, so that we can turn from yellow to green to turquoise counties so the parents can watch the volleyball athletes play participate. That is so important at this point.
Are cheerleaders considered fans or essential workers at the games?
Cheerleaders are considered spectators at this point. We did not have the cheerleaders or the band attending any of these games prior to the governor releasing that spectators are allowed. We consider the cheerleaders spectators; however we will allow them to perform on that sideline but they need to be within that 25% or 50% for those outdoor sports.
Now that fans are in the stands, can schools sell concessions?
We are saying no to concessions. At this point, we need to just watch the game. There’s so much that goes on with concessions. There’s a massive amount of people around a concession stand at halftime, that is not good. The governor’s order says no concessions and we will continue that. Even though there are fans in the stands, there will not be any concessions sold.
When is the next county color update?
Wednesday, every two weeks on Wednesday. We have to hold our breath and make sure we get these counties to green and turquoise so that all parents, indoor and outdoor sports, get to watch their kids participate. Let’s work hard on mask wearing, get these cases down and social distance and do what we need to do so that we can support our kids.
Teams will play fewer games than normal. Why couldn’t the fall teams play longer seasons?
When we put this calendar together, we were not just looking at fall sports and winter sports. What we did is we really looked at spring sports first and the reason is because last year spring sports did not have a season. They didn’t get to participate so we wanted to make sure the spring sports had a good solid season. Then as the governor shifted and we had to shift the calendar, the winter seasons shrunk and kept getting smaller and smaller to a point where we were down to 5, maybe 6, weeks that we could do for fall and winter. We cannot expand fall. I get that question all the time. Why can’t we play more football games and play more volleyball games? We have to look at the big picture. We have multi-sport athletes and we cannot put fall sports right on top of winter sports because then kids will have to choose what they are going to do. It does not work. Big schools don’t have this problem. Many people say we can do it because we have so many athletes. We have 160 high schools, from small schools to big schools, and we need to do what is best for all schools.
Now that fall sports are underway with everyone wearing masks, what happens when a mask falls down in a sport like cross country, volleyball, football or soccer?
We’ve told our coaches that is going to happen and just have them pull it back up. They are not trying to get an advantage out of it. It’s going to come down and the athletes are going to pull it back up. We need to make sure they are doing everything possible to keep that mask over their nose and mouth, especially on the sideline, while they are playing, but any time it falls down, adjust it as quickly as you can and play resumes.
Lastly, this week marks the one-year anniversary since the state basketball tournament was shut down and athletics stopped. What do you remember about that time and how far have we come since then?
This week would have been state basketball championship week. That is the day we were shut down. We were called that we had the first case in New Mexico and then we were shut down from that point on. I can’t believe it’s been a year. We have been saying from that time that we are going to play sports again New Mexico. I know it took a longer period of time than we thought it would and people were getting antsy and it was getting difficult, but we made it through those tough times. Here we are, a year later, and we are playing sports again. Whether it’s mask wearing, social distancing, and it looks different, the kids are smiling and we are going to continue. It doesn’t matter when we started, even if it was a year later, we have a start, and now we need to finish.