As the days continue to get warmer, there is no doubt that student-athletes are itching to hit the nearest school field to get their game on.
But with spring sports canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New Mexico Activities Association—the organization that regulates interscholastic athletics in the state—wants to remind kids that school athletic facilities are off limits.
Last month the NMAA started posting weekly interviews on its website with executive director Sally Marquez, giving updates on school sports and restrictions during the Covid-19 shutdown.
During one recent question-and-answer session on the NMAA website—and again during a phone interview this week with The Independent—Marquez said there have been incidents in the Albuquerque area of student-athletes disobeying the current restrictions and going to school facilities to practice.
Marquez told The Independent that some student-athletes have jumped fences to get onto fields, putting themselves in a dangerous situation.
“A lot of kids are trying to get into facilities to work out or throw the ball around,” she said.
Marquez said she is urging coaches to talk to their athletes and asking parents to talk with their kids to make sure they continue social distancing, to stay home and not get together in groups.
“It’s all of us, every single one of us needs to get the word out,” Marquez said. “The whole thing is to keep kids safe and encourage them to not get into a facility that they should not be in.”
East Mountain High School’s April 27 email to its parents and students included a message stating the soccer field at Vista Grande Community Complex and all other outdoor spaces on campus are closed for gatherings.
Trey Smith, East Mountain’s principal and athletic director, said he hasn’t seen any organized practices at the facilities, but added, “We’ve just noticed groups of friends from different households getting together on occasion, so I wanted to clarify that they should not happen on our campus.”
Smith said the school’s spring coaches have been in contact with their athletes and have been providing virtual workout programs.
Moriarty athletic director Joe Anaya said in a text that he hasn’t heard about or seen anything regarding kids practicing at the school’s facilities, noting, “We have someone at the fields every night, plus maintenance is also on campus daily till 5.”
Estancia’s athletic director and varsity football head coach Stewart Burnett said, “As of yet, there’s been absolutely no issues” with student-athletes using the high school facilities. “If there had been, I’m sure I would’ve heard about it.”
Like the Vista Grande soccer field next to East Mountain’s campus, Burnett acknowledged that Estancia’s fields are not locked and are easily accessible.
“From an access standpoint, somebody could get in if they wanted to, if someone wanted to pitch on the mound, they could,” Burnett said.
Burnett said he monitors the high school facilities multiple times a week, and he and his staff have been in contact with Estancia’s student-athletes during the shutdown.
“We’re running virtual workouts, we’re doing stuff, we have a pretty tight grip on our kids,” he said.
Marquez said she knows that “Kids are getting antsy and it’s natural for them to want to get together,” adding, “We need to get back to playing, there’s no doubt, but we need to do what’s hard now so we can play later.”
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.