Fingers crossed, high school sports will resume come fall with football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country. That’s assuming a lot of things go right in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be a fall season uneasily working its way through a minefield, one misstep away from being shut down. And it could be missing its most popular sport: football needs among the strictest guidelines to be relaxed before it can even start practicing, let alone play games.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) released a document last week detailing guidelines for re-starting high school sports.
As the document is 16 pages long, the major points will be summarized here:
The guidelines are divided into three phases, 1-3, and are based on a White House document released in April.
In Phase 1, before engaging in preseason workouts, all coaches and students should be screened for signs/symptoms of Covid-19. This includes a temperature check.
Anyone testing positive should not be allowed to participate in workouts; vulnerable individuals should not oversee or participate in workouts.
No locker rooms during preseason workouts; student-athletes should come to workouts in proper gear and return home for showering.
Workouts should be conducted in “pods”, with the same 5-10 players always working out together. There must also be a minimum of six feet between individuals. Football formations should look interesting.
Then again, still no gatherings of more than 10 people at a time.
Cleaning will be strictly enforced. All hard surfaces inside a facility wiped down and sanitized before an individual or a group enters; weight equipment wiped down thoroughly before and after usage; appropriate clothing should be worn in the weight room to minimize sweating; and any holes showing exposed foam should be covered.
There should be no sharing of equipment, including towels; all equipment, including balls, should be cleaned after each use and prior to the next usage; and free weight exercises requiring a spotter can not be done, as the spotter would violate social distancing.
In football, players must not participate in team drills using a single ball that will be passed around; contact with other players is not allowed; and no sharing of tackling dummies, donuts and blocking sleds.
A volleyball player should not use a ball that other players touch or hit.
Runners should maintain the recommended six feet distance between individuals.
All students should bring their own water bottles, and not share them.
By Phase 3, athletes and coaches are not required to be screen for Covid-19 prior to workouts, but any individual who has displayed fever or cold symptoms in the previous 24 hours should not be allowed to participate.
The maximum size of a gathering is increased to 50 individuals, and physical distancing is suggested for people not directly participating in practices or games.
Cleaning guidelines remain the same in regards to wiping down and sanitizing equipment and facilities.
Moderate risk sports practices and competitions may begin, with equipment cleaned between each use. Other equipment, such as football pads, helmets, eyewear and gloves, should be used by one player and not shared.
Modified practices for higher-risk sports may begin in Phase 3.
Lower-risk sports are sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment: cross country (with staggered starts), golf, sideline cheerleading, individual running and throwing events.
Moderate-risk sports involve close, sustained combat, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between players; or intermittent close contact: volleyball, soccer, and field hockey (also baseball, softball, tennis and girls lacrosse, but we’re focusing on fall sports here).
Higher-risk sports involve close, sustained contact between players, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will between transmitted between players: football (also wrestling, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer).
Yup; football can’t even start practicing until Phase 3.
Additionally, no fans will be allowed at games until state/local health departments lift restrictions on mass gatherings.
Media will be consider “preferred,” not “essential,” and will be allowed to watch the game at the discretion of the host school.