High school football players on the field doing drills. Soccer players working on their footwork. Runners taking laps on a track.
Images like these—student-athletes training and practicing on their campuses—have been non-existent since the New Mexico Activities Association pulled the plug on school sports in mid-March.
For nearly three months student-athletes have been in a holding pattern, restricted to virtual workouts from home.
Now the NMAA has released guidelines for resuming limited activities starting June 15, and though area high school athletic directors say they are eager to get back to a workout routine, they admit there are plenty of details that need to be ironed out to meet the restrictions and requirements included in the guidelines.
“I’m excited that we’re opening up and gonna get back on campus,” Moriarty athletic director Joe Anaya said, adding, “It’ll be a slow process but I’m glad it’s happening.”
The NMAA’s guidelines, available on its website titled “NMAA Guidance for Return to Play,” are in accordance with state guidelines as well as those published by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The guidelines allow for a coordinated reopening of high school athletic departments, mapped out in three phases, with Phase One kicking off June 15. Schools do not have to resume on that date, but they cannot start earlier.
Prior to starting any activities, a school’s staff members, including coaches, must receive a COVD-19 test. State guidelines for cloth face coverings are to be strictly followed, with coaches wearing them at all times. The guidelines say students should wear face coverings upon arrival and departure but are not required to wear them during exercise.
Phase One emphasizes workouts with no contact among participants, no sharing of equipment, no games or scrimmages, and a laundry list of cleaning and sanitizing requirements.
Additionally, the limit on the number of coaches and student-athletes together at one time inside or outside is six: five athletes supervised by one coach.
Workouts are to be conducted in what the guidelines call “pods,” with the same group of five student-athletes always working out together with the same coach in a pod. A maximum of three separate pods are allowed at indoor facilities, while the total number of outdoor pods may not exceed five; and there must be a minimum distance of six feet between each individual at all times.
Weight rooms are not to be used during Phase One.
“My initial reaction was, I was pleased to see it, I think it’s the first step on a long road but it’s a step in the right direction,” Estancia athletic director and head football coach Stewart Burnett said, adding, “I don’t know what it’s gonna look like for us exactly—it’s just a massive jigsaw puzzle that we’ve gotta figure out.”
Burnett said he and his staff, and the school district will be meeting over the next week to put a thorough game plan together.
“There’s a lot of logistics to work out,” Burnett said. “Our goal is to be one of the ones to say, ‘We can get back to sports,’ and we plan to take full advantage of what we can do with our kids under these guidelines.”
Anaya said there are specifics to be worked out for Moriarty, noting that the football and soccer programs will likely come out first.
“Your usual summer groups will probably take advantage of it, creative coaches will find a way to make this work,” Anaya said.
Moriarty boys soccer coach Jordan Allcorn said via text that he isn’t sure at this point how he’ll implement the return to play, adding, “We are developing a plan.”
East Mountain High’s principal and athletic director Trey Smith said in an email that the school would like to resume athletic practices as soon as it is safe for all its students and staff to do so. Smith said that he is “researching the logistics” regarding what the coaches and teams would need, adding, “While June 15 is the allowable date to start small group conditioning, we will probably need at least a couple more weeks past that to pull this off.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.