Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
On Thursday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham shut football and soccer down in New Mexico for the fall sports season. In case some of the athletes and coaches did not watch her live-streamed press conference or receive her message, on Monday night, Lujan Grisham sent a message everyone could understand.
Sally Marquez, New Mexico Activities Association executive director, was told to have coaches cancel workouts for the rest of the summer for football, soccer and wrestling. Other sports such as volleyball and basketball are not.
Summer workouts canceled
The cancellation of the summer workouts has left some coaches wondering why they are being singled out. Roswell football coach Jeff Lynn was left to ponder why football, soccer and wrestling were being singled out and shut down. For the foreseeable future, they will not be able to continue conditioning, while other sports and club sports are able to continue their workouts.
One of the reasons Lynn does not understand the cancellation of sports is that everyone has the same protocol right now. One pod, five athletes and a coach in the pod and nothing physical or competitive, and no balls.
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No one is practicing football, they are conditioning. There is no seven-on-seven, they are not running plays and there are no balls. Lynn feels like, in phase one, everyone should be able to work out their athletes. It is the same for all sports right now. Lynn feels like the coaches can work out their kids safely.
“I don’t get why football, soccer and wrestling are singled out,” Lynn said, “when we are working under the same protocols as all the other sports. We’re not playing football right now. We are working our kids out and we can do that safely. We are going to follow the rules.”
Lynn feels like if the kids are not coming to workout, what are they going to be doing? He thinks kids need to have structure and be productive. He feels like his kids need to be pushed and be around positive people, who will tell them good things and reinforce them. For a lot of athletes, the team is a second family.
“The Governor’s Office did tell us the decision to stop summer workouts for wrestling, football and soccer was due to the fact that they are contact sports,” Dusty Young, New Mexico Activities Association associate director said, “and that would thus be consistent with the recent public health orders that were announced last week.”
Lt. Gov. Morales’ concerns
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales shared with RDR Sports Tuesday how he had been fielding calls from coaches and the primary concerns were wanting to keep kids busy and staying active. Morales said that Lujan Grisham wanted to limit the opportunity for exposure to the virus. Morales expressed concern as to the high number of virus counts that continue to grow in New Mexico, that Lujan Grisham wanted to have safeguards in place.
Morales has praised Sally Marquez and the NMAA board for working with the Governor’s Office. He feels it has been beneficial. NMAA has a solid plan to try and bring sports seasons to high schools when they are able to compete.
“We want to make sure people know we are not canceling seasons,” Morales said, “but postponing them and they are rolled out at different times of the year. I think it is important and I want to make sure if at all possible, not to cancel seasons. It is always about student engagement, and athletic opportunities give that for student engagement, which in turn leads to academic achievement, and better attendance and behavior.”
Morales feels like the governor is supportive of not canceling the season of sports for schools. With the pods and the five-to-one ratio and it being summertime, Morales hopes there will be no spread of the virus that occurs in other areas. Last week, there were 20 positive cases at New Mexico State University with their football team. With that happening, Lujan Grisham was concerned for high school athletes.
According to Morales, as they have reevaluated the numbers, they just didn’t look favorable to continue workouts. Morales says the NMAA’s plan is to have volleyball start in October and a full announcement will be made by NMAA today.
Morales has two children that play sports, an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.
“I see the impact on children,” Morales said. “I see the sadness that is going across all the state. It is not like I’m not understanding or sympathetic to what the kids are going through, because I experience it on a daily basis. My daughter asks me, ‘When am I going to get to play? When can I practice with my friends?’”
Morales continues to give the answer the governor has given, encouraging people to wear their masks, keep social distance and with that, the chance for sports to return increases. Morales understands how important it is not to have any seniors have lost seasons.
Morales understands the social and emotional aspects of it, what it does in keeping people physically fit and helping kids mature and grow mentally. He knows it is especially important to the seniors that might not be able to play again and realizes they won’t get the chance to be a senior again.
“I know what happened in March, April and May,” Morales said. “Is something we don’t ever want to experience again. That’s why we are asking people to do their part so our kids can get an opportunity to experience those activities but do it in a safe and responsible way.”
There have been youth sports teams that have been going to Arizona and Texas to play sports. Morales knows that is happening, and as much as he would like to have his daughter play, Morales knows that is not the responsible thing to do.
There have been questions about the potential of high school football players being recruited to play football in other states. Morales has heard them, too.
“I would highly discourage that,” Morales said. “Once you go and play football in another state, they lose their eligibility to come back and play football in the state of New Mexico, in the same school year. I know they would much rather play in their own community with their teammates.”
Morales is grateful that he is getting calls from coaches, athletes and parents from across the state. He has given feedback to the services that are available to them. The virus has been and is dictating what has occurred and what may continue to occur.
Morales says there is no number that has to be reached in order for sports to be played, but the criteria has to be reached.
“I understand and I’m sympathetic to the concerns that are out there,” Morales said, “and the sadness that comes with it. I also share optimism in how we can get to the activities we want to do by each of us doing our part. That’s an individual choice, but we have to make sure we can get to that point where everyone is safe, and everyone is active. We have control of that, and I would encourage people to do those little things that will make such a big difference.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.