On Thursday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the start of schools in the fall would be pushed back until after Labor Day. Lujan Grisham cited data and health concerns for teachers, parents and students during a live-streamed press conference Thursday regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
After hearing the news, Sally Marquez, New Mexico Activities Association executive director, held a conference call with athletic directors, and then one with the golf and cross country coaches from around the state. After that, Marquez posted a message in which she answered questions from J.P. Murrieta about what all this means to athletes, coaches and parents.
JP: “The governor announced that she will delay the start of schools until after Labor Day on Sept. 8. What does that mean to the student-athletes?”
SM: “It does not change our goal. Our goal, and we have been saying this since March, we are going to play all sports in the 2020-’21 school year. It may shift our fall sports a little bit in the calendar, but our athletic directors are working tirelessly to make sure all the schedules for all sports are going to be in place for the 2020-’21 school year. Just like I said a couple of weeks ago, I am sending out that message of hope, we are here again, and I just want everyone to stay positive, because we are going to play again in New Mexico.”
RISD Athletic Director Britt Cooper seemed optimistic that sports will be played this year. He noted not much has changed because of the governor’s announcement on Thursday. Volleyball will start on Oct. 5. Golf and cross country’s start dates will be on that date, as well.
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The governor has implemented a staggered start to school: elementary schools will open first, then two weeks later, middle schools, and two weeks after that, high schools open on Oct. 5. According to Marquez, if things stay as planned, coaches will be allowed to start practicing on Sept. 28, two weeks before practice is set to begin if school is in session. It is important to note that no activities will be allowed to start until school starts.
“We’re working closely with the NMAA,” Cooper said. “We are following guidelines sent down by the governor and Public Education Department. We plan to play sports when the time comes for all of them. Like Sally (Marquez) keeps saying, ‘we are going to try to play them all until we hear differently.’ We are in full support of the NMAA and what they are doing. We’ve had to reschedule some things, but everything should be in line when it is time to go.”
Sports Editor’s Note: The following story was written prior to New Mexico Activities Association’s Friday conference with coaches. RDR Sports talked to Britt Cooper, Roswell Independent School District’s athletic director, about the changes facing sports in the fall. Stay tuned to RDR Sports for the most up-to-date information as Sally Marquez, NMAA’s executive director, continues to make adjustments to sports schedules.
Goddard awaits the start of volleyball season
For coaches, no matter if they held the Blue Trophy at the end of the season, or if they came close last season, the most important game is the next one. All volleyball coaches in New Mexico have been waiting for the 2020 season to start. Many cannot start without the OK from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Earlier in the summer, Sally Marquez, New Mexico Activities Association executive director, and her staff came up with a plan to safely allow teams to begin workouts.
Teams were able to work out the second week of June. The restrictions were no competition, no balls and there had to be temperature checks before practice. Only one coach could be in a pod with five athletes. Like most teams in the area, Goddard volleyball had to shut down when the governor announced no fall sports.
The NMAA has come out with a revised schedule and volleyball will officially begin on Oct. 5. When school starts, depending on whether it is a traditional or hybrid setting — meaning some classes could start online while others will be on campus — then volleyball can start offseason workouts on Sept. 28.
Goddard worked out June 15 for two weeks and then canceled their workouts because of the governor’s restrictions. Goddard coach Dewayne Roberts was pleased by the turnout of athletes showing up for workouts during the two weeks they were in the pods.
The NMAA has come up with a plan to fit fall sports into a 10-week window. For volleyball teams, they might play three games a week. Look for Goddard’s 18-game schedule to have a heavy dose of regional teams: Ruidoso, Roswell, Portales, Artesia, Lovington, Hobbs, Carlsbad and Clovis, just to name a few.
According to Roberts, it takes time for a team to bond, gel, and form the chemistry needed if a team is to win a state title. Normally, the Lady Rockets would bond during summer workouts or while hosting the Zia Classic.
NMAA’s Marquez mentioned there will be no tournaments played, and no overnight travel. Goddard will not play in the Sweet 16, the Rio Rancho or the Cleveland Jamboree tournaments this year. One of the biggest things Goddard will miss is playing this summer in scrimmages at Roswell.
Roberts’ feels those scrimmages against other teams promote unity and team. Those games gave Roberts a chance to see where his team was, from a coaching perspective, and what his team needed to work on to be ready for district play.
“If we were going to be starting on time,” Roberts said, “I would be more concerned than I am. Obviously, I want to be in the gym with my kids learning with them and seeing where we are at; but no one is going to be at a disadvantage this year. Everybody is going to start on Oct. 5 — we will have plenty of time to get the stuff down that we need to.”
Goddard will have a nucleus of veteran players back off the semifinal team last year. Roberts will have his team scrimmage more against themselves since they will not be able to scrimmage other teams.
He is confident volleyball will be played this year. The message he is sending to his players is one of positivity. The No. 1 thing he is stressing to his players is for them to be in shape and be ready when they can play volleyball.
Roberts knows if his team is not in shape, it will take away from other things the team can learn and work on. In Roberts’ fast-break style of play, he wants his players ready to go. With fewer games, conditioning might mean the difference in making the playoffs and seeding.
“Volleyball is going to be different this year,” Roberts said. “As of right now, it’s important we play and have a season.”