WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ APRIL 19, 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’ve seen some programs have to shut down because of COVID cases in school. What happens to that athletic program/team? Are they still eligible for state?
We have some cases where teams are going to have to shut down because of COVID and contact tracing by the Department of Health that told them they have to quarantine for ten days. Is that going to affect them for state is the question. It depends on the timing. In order to be eligible for state, you need to play at least 51 percent of your district schedule and you need to play each of your opponents at least one time. Depending on the timing of shutting down will determine whether some team will be eligible for the postseason. We have some teams that are shut down right now and they will be back before the seeding process for basketball. As long as they have over 51% of their games (in district) and they’ve played everybody (in their district), then they would be eligible. If they don’t, and they cannot make up that many games in the short amount of time, then they will not be eligible for the postseason. The teams that are not shut down due to COVID, let’s say they missed a game because their opponent shut down, they will not be affected.
Spring and winter sports coaches have been notified about mask wearing for their athletes. What sort of penalties are put in place if athletes are in violation of not wearing their mask properly?
I know there are some people out there who don’t believe we should be wearing masks. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people asking why are we mask wearing. First and foremost, it is the governor’s public health order, and that’s for everybody, even for adults. If you are going to a fitness center, you must wear a mask to work out. We are doing the exact same thing. The penalties, sanctions and fines, yes, all of them are in play, depending on the defiance, that is the key word. When we see those masks underneath their chin, that is more defiance versus working out and it comes below their nose and they put it right back up. It has been put in place that this is so important for us to make sure we get to the finish line with athletics that sanctions, fines, suspensions, and even a postseason ban, may be place if an athlete or a team does not mask wear.
The Board of Directors voted on out of season coaching. What was the decision and why was it made?
Out of season coaching came up in the Board meeting, and it also came up in a meeting last week with coaches and athletic directors, in regards to how do we make sure that we keep these kids safe and we get to the finish line, especially for those spring sports that did not have a season last year. The suggestion was that maybe out of season coaching, those fall sports that just finished, curtail just a little bit until the end of May. The Board of Directors put forward that there can be out of season coaching, however we will give guidance to going back to those smaller pod sizes to make sure we social distance, mask wear and go back to what we were doing prior to the season to make sure we keep those cases down at the schools and we are able to get to the finish line for the winter and spring sports.
This year, because of COVID and online learning, some students struggled and the NMAA granted some scholastic eligibility exceptions. Will there be exceptions for this coming fall and the new school year?
There will not be any exceptions. Right now, kids and parents, make sure that you understand that the semester grades coming up in May, the second semester of this school year, that will determine eligibility for the fall. We will not have a clean slate, we will not have appeals, students need to get their grades right now at semester in order to be eligible for the fall. If they are not eligible at the semester, then they need to start thinking about some summer school to make up those grades in order to be eligible for the fall.
Lastly, wrestling was on the verge of being suspended. What are the chances of other winter or spring sports getting put on pause or not being able to compete?
We have to learn from situations. We tell our athletes and students that sometimes we have hiccups but we have to learn from them so we get better. We need to learn from the situation that happened with wrestling. We were on the verge of shutting wrestling down and we were able to get that sport back up and running. The feelings those kids had when their coaches told them that wrestling was going to be temporarily suspended this school year, the tears and heartache, I could not stand up before a camera and tell winter sports or spring sports that we have shut down. We need to make sure that we mask wear and social distance, spectators in the stands need to mask wear and social distance, do everything we can to get to the finish line, and that includes what goes on in the community, outside of practice, at home, we just need to buckle down right now. We have two months left, two months. And then that will make sure we reach our goal of having every single sport compete this school year. I am asking for two months that we buckle down and do what we need to do because we’ve had a start and now we need to finish.