On the heels of the governor’s Sept. 17 announcement updating the state’s emergency health order that included revisions to youth sports and group sizes in exercise settings, the New Mexico Activities Association wasted no time altering its guidelines for high school sports.
On Sept. 18, the NMAA expanded the number of student-athletes allowed in a school’s workout groups, or “pods,” and gave the green light for fall contact sports like football and soccer to resume workouts.
The NMAA’s limit on pod sizes is now nine student-athletes per coach. The previous limit on pod sizes was five student-athletes per coach.
Multiple pods are allowed, providing the number of pods in an indoor facility does not exceed three at one time; outdoor pods may not exceed five at one time. For instance, three separate pods with up to nine students and one coach in each could work out in a gym, while five separate pods with the same 9:1 ratio could occupy a football or soccer field.
The NMAA’s guidelines regarding cloth face coverings and physical distancing have not changed.
Moriarty High’s football team took advantage of the change and returned to full workouts in the school’s new weight room this week. The weight room is among several new additions that were part of a remodeling project in the building that houses the school’s main and auxiliary gyms.
“This is the first full week in this weight room, so for a lot of these kids this is the first time that they’re getting to see this,” head football coach Gabe Romero said. “Just the fact that we’re actually able to do something is good, it’s good for these kids, they’re excited just to be able to do something—and it is nice to have that in-person contact with the kids and see the kids again.”
Moriarty junior Bruno Garcia, who said he is planning on playing basketball and football when both sports return in 2021, echoed coach Romero.
“It’s good, I missed it,” Garcia said. “I’ve been trying to do home workouts but I’m glad we’re finally back in the weight room.”
“It feels great, it feels amazing, especially with this new weight room,” senior Justin Carmona said. “It makes everything feel like it’s coming back to normal again from all the lockdown stuff, it makes you feel like you’re actually getting back to a normal routine.”
Romero said that even though the pods can now have up to nine athletes, he thinks the smaller pods are more manageable regarding the physical distancing and sanitizing requirements.
“When you get nine kids and one coach trying to run around after them, trying to clean everything up, it’s pretty difficult,” Romero said.
Moriarty’s volleyball team also started full workouts this week with the expanded-size pods. East Mountain, Estancia, and Mountainair high schools’ varsity volleyball teams have also started workouts.
Estancia’s athletic director and head football coach Stewart Burnett said he was still working out the details but is planning on getting some of his athletes back in the weight room and on the football field next week.
East Mountain’s athletic director and head volleyball coach Kasi Giovenco said some of the school’s other teams, like boys and girls soccer, were also hoping to get some workouts going next week.
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.