Sports Editor’s Note: On Monday, Sally Marquez, New Mexico Activities Association’s executive director, sat down with J.P. Murrieta, sports information director for NMAA, to talk about the governor’s delaying of in-person learning until Labor Day. Many athletic directors, coaches, student-athletes and parents want to know what that means to them.
JP: “Are there any changes going forward?”
SM: “It doesn’t change much. We still have the goal that we are going to play all sports in the 2020-21 school year. Since our student-athletes will not be in school until the end of September/beginning of October now, we just shifted the fall golf and the cross country back to Oct. 5. Oct. 5 is when we are going to start volleyball, so that hasn’t changed. At this time, it’s just shifted a little bit, and let’s still play the sports that we love.
JP: “Teams are still conducting summer workouts. When do those workouts have to stop?”
SM: “In our bylaws, summer is between the last day of school and the first day of school, so summer is different for everybody. Everybody has a different first day of school, a lot of them are Aug.12, some are Aug. 5, it all depends. On that first day of school, that is when summer workouts will end.”
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JP: “The NMAA has issued a ‘dead period’ from the first day of school until September. Why can’t teams and programs work out when school starts? What’s the reasoning for the ‘dead period’?”
SM: “We’ve always said that if our kids are in remote learning, as set by the Governor’s Office and the Public Education Department, then there’s no athletics and activities. That’s what happened in mid-March, April and May of this year. Since the governor announced that we are in remote learning from the first day of school until after Labor Day, and then after Labor Day, it’s going to go elementary school and middle school and high school. Our students will be remote learning from the first day of school until, really, the end of September. In that remote learning time, we cannot have athletics and activities. We are calling it a ‘dead period’ so there is no in-person connection between a coach and the student-athlete.”
JP: “The dead period applies to athletics, what about activities?”
SM: “It does apply to activities face to face. In both athletics and activities, you can have virtual workouts, you can do everything virtually. Our activity world is preparing to meet with students virtually and see what we can do to get kids engaged during this remote learning time.”
JP: “You moved the wrestling start date back one week. It’s now scheduled to begin on April 12. Why change that projected date?”
SM: “We have wrestling in there where spring sports are and what we noticed is the football-wrestling overlap, especially in small schools, is problematic. We just decided to move it back one week. One week doesn’t sound like a lot, but one week when you’re overlapping is quite a bit. We wanted to move that back to give those football players time to finish that football season and have a very strong wrestling season.”
JP: “If a school decides to not participate in a sport this school year, will there be any penalty?”
SM: “There’s not going to be any penalty whatsoever. We anticipate that this is going to happen. We have asked our schools to let us know at least two weeks before the start of the season if they are going to participate or not. That doesn’t give us much time for schools who lose games to pick up another game for their schedule. We just want to make sure that everybody is comfortable if they are going to play sports. There’s no penalty. It’s not going to shift anything for next year. We just want to make sure that all who want to participate are participating and all that are a little bit leery or doubtful, that they have a chance to opt-out.”
JP: “With the changes to the athletic calendar, how does it affect scholastic eligibility? Specifically, with sports like soccer and football, which were moved to the spring?”
SM: “We had a change with scholastic eligibility. The Board of Directors voted that we have a clean slate beginning in the fall. Those are for the sports in the fall — right now that’s golf, cross country and volleyball. Football and soccer are no longer in the fall. So, all sports, except those three, will have to have their scholastic eligibility based on their first semester grades. Even though we are in remote learning, they need a 2.0 GPA and no F’s in December for all the sports beginning in January, including football and soccer, to be eligible for the rest of the semester.”
JP: “Lastly, there’s a lot of moving parts to this equation; it’s an ever-changing situation. What’s it going to take to ensure that we get to play fall sports sometime this fall?”
SM: “We need to get back in school, it’s as simple as that. We need our kids back in the classroom either full-time or in the hybrid model. How do we do that? We flatten the curve and we wear masks. I know it’s uncomfortable and I know it’s not the ‘norm’, but we need to be able to dream again. When I say dream again, when kids are back in the classroom and we dream about being normal, we’ll be able to play sports. There’s a quote that you have to dream in order for dreams to come true. But what we need to do is continue to be positive, and continue to see us, in your mind, see us playing sports because our dreams are going to come true and we’re going to play again New Mexico!”