Sports Editor’s Note: On Monday, Sally Marquez, executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, sat down with JP Murrieta and answered questions about where the state of high school sports is at. Will schools be able to play in the fall? RDR Sports has edited for clarity. With July fast approaching, many coaches and players want to know where things stand on being able to play sports this fall.
The Public Education Department released reentry guidance for returning to school. They have discussed a hybrid model of returning to school. The hybrid model would be a combination of in-person attendance and online learning.
JP: What does that mean for athletics and activities?
SM: “The governor mentioned the return to guidelines came out last week and it is a hybrid model to start school. What does that mean? That is what I am working on right now. Can we have fall sports in a hybrid model? We have some problems with practice, getting kids back to practice when they are not in school. Now that we have those guidelines, it is how long are we going to be in the hybrid model. I do know the Public Education Department wants to get kids back quickly to school; fulltime. How long are we going to be in the hybrid model is a question, and how are we going to make that work? But again, everything changes every week. That is our new goal is how we are going to have fall sports in the hybrid model.”
JP: Several schools have started summer workouts, working in pods with a 5:1 ratio. Can a program have one pod of five and compete against another pod of five?
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SM: “That word you just said: compete. We cannot have competition. It is still individual drills. We have opened to where you can use the equipment and use balls within the pod. We cannot go from one pod to another, for example, volleyball. Even if you had five vs. five in one pod, you are sharing that equipment, and that equipment can only be within the pod. At this point, there is no competition.”
JP: With so many questions still unanswered like will March tournaments be allowed this year, can you compete against out-of-state teams? Should athletic directors change their schedules?
SM: “I talked to the athletic directors and told them to hold off on changing schedules. Let’s see where we are at. In fact, Friday, I am going to have coaches meetings with every single fall sports just to have some conversation. The whole thing is to communicate as to where we are. I have told the athletic directors and coaches from the beginning that we should not change schedules until mid-July. We don’t want to go do something quickly and then it changes. Everything is so fluid. I would say mid-July, let’s look at schedules and see what we need to do to adapt to the situation.”
JP: Is there a cutoff date when the New Mexico Activities Association will see if fall sports will start on time?
SM: “I don’t know if there is a cutoff date. I keep saying mid-July. We need to have something in place by mid-July or the third week in July. Pretty soon school will start and we just need to figure that all out. I think the next two weeks are going to be critical as to what is going to happen. I was reading a newspaper article about the University of New Mexico athletics talking about wear your face mask for fall sports. Wearing a face mask is critical and I’m wearing mine. We want fall sports and we want it to happen, so we need to start now. I have been saying this from the beginning, what we do now is going to determine what is going to happen in August. I have been saying that since March and April. It is critical now that if it is mask-wearing, we need to all get on board and wear the mask so we can see what is going to happen with fall sports. To answer your question, that third week in July, we have to make some determination as to what is going to happen, or how we are going to navigate COVID-19.”
JP: Lastly, where are we at in this process?
SM: “We are positive. We just talked about schedules and so on and so forth. Where are we at? We have to stay positive. The one thing we have to continue to do is communicate and we all have to be on the same page. We are in this together. Summer workouts — we are in this together. I know that it is a little bit restrictive, but we just started. Now, where are we going to go in August? We all need to be on the same page, and the first thing is safety. We have to think of the kids, we have to think of the safety of our kids. We need to get kids back to school. That is the key. We have to have kids in the normalcy of school so after school, they can go to practice.
“You know the Albuquerque school where my son was a senior this year, they had some graduation ceremony with some videos out there. They had videos of what was going on in schools, the kids playing, and so on and so forth. They were trying to see what happens in a school environment and I looked at that and everything they showed was athletics and activities. That is the schools’ world, it is so important to kids and to the education environment. That is first and foremost. We need to get our kids back in school. On all those videos, the kids were smiling, they were excited showing school spirit. That’s what we need. Once we get them back in school, we are going to be able to play sports and have activities.
“Where does that start? That starts now and doing what is right. This weekend, I received emails about parents bringing a group of kids out to practice. That is great that parents are involved but with parents being involved, we can’t have a 15:1 ratio. We can’t have a group of kids working out together. It’s great they are working out but let’s stay in those 5:1 ratios in the pods. Everything we do, we need to follow those guidelines. I know they are restrictive, and people are getting antsy, but over and over, we have to follow these guidelines now because we want to play fall sports. We want to play in August, September and October. We need to see those kids smiling and involved in all of those activities.
“All I ask is let’s do it right now — let’s stay positive. We will continue to communicate with everyone and we are going to play.”