On Tuesday, Sally Marquez, New Mexico Activities Association executive director, sat down with J.P. Murrieta and gave an update on where sports in New Mexico stands.
J.P. “We are one month away from the official start of fall sports in New Mexico. What can athletic programs do at this point right now?”
S.M. “We are still in our ‘summer guidelines.’ The guidelines we had in June and July are still the same ones we are doing at this point. We are still in 5:1 pods. It is school driven, so it is up to the schools if they want to do that or they don’t want to do that. It is all up to the schools as to what they can and cannot do. There is still limited equipment and mask-wearing and sanitation, but basically it’s the same guidelines we had in the summer.”
J.P. “What about soccer, football, basketball, and wrestling? Has anything changed?”
S.M. “That has not changed, those four contact sports, we are still not able to work out in those sports. A lot of those athletes have a secondary sport, a lot of them are track and field athletes so they are working out in their secondary sport, but we’re still not able to have any type of contact. We are considered ‘out of season.’ The season doesn’t start until Oct. 5. So, the out-of-season guidelines are still in effect where it’s seven-and-a-half hours Monday through Friday, or on school days when athletes can work out with their coaches.”
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J.P. “Some schools will start to transition to hybrid mode this month. If a school or district is online-only, can they participate in athletics?”
S.M. “They sure can. Again, that is a school board/school district decision if they want to participate in athletics and activities. All we are asking for is two weeks’ notice before the start of the season, which for the fall is Oct. 5. So, on Sept. 21, we are asking the schools to let us know whether you are going to participate in fall golf, cross country and volleyball.”
J.P. “Each week, we talk about the return to athletics. Have we already started a return to activities?”
S.M. “We had an activities council meeting last week and this Friday we are having a meeting for any sponsor or activity leader or activity director who would like to join us. I expect that to be quite large. The meeting is to give them more information as to what they can and cannot do. Activities have started. When we met with the activities council, all of them are planning virtual activities this year. There are some obstacles with music, band and choir, but the New Mexico Music Educators Association is doing a great job to get guidelines out there. We are looking forward to that meeting on Friday. We can make sure that all the sponsors understand what we can do so they can go back to their administrators and say, ‘Yes, activities are going at this point.’”
J.P. “The guidelines for powerlifting were recently sent out to athletic directors. What will this virtual competition be like? When will competitions take place? How do you determine a winner? Is it open to boys and girls?”
S.M. “We are talking about competitions, but when powerlifting came in, it was for fun. We were trying to have something that the schools can do, we don’t have football, we don’t have wrestling and we were trying to find something for the athletes to do in order to stay positive and get going and start to look forward to something in their high school career and so we put in powerlifting. It is going to start at the beginning of October. I don’t think our first lift will be until November because we need to make sure we get these kids in shape. It is going to be virtual and it is going to be fun. I know people say, ‘I’m going to be the strongest, I’m going to win this’, but that is not the idea at all. The idea is the competition, yes, but it is meant to be something that these student-athletes can look forward to and they can compete against their peers virtually.”
J.P. “And to wrap up this week’s question and answer interview session: Last week, the NMAA launched a mental health awareness initiative for the school year. What has the response been like?”
S.M. “It’s been very, very positive. Every single day, there’s a student-athlete out there struggling. We have many that are remote learning and feel like they don’t have a purpose. They are used to getting up in the morning, going to school, seeing their friends, and then they’re excited about their after-school activities. Right now, they don’t feel like they matter. This is just an initiative that we’re going to make sure that we get that information out there that they do matter and if they are feeling alone or they are feeling depressed or suicidal, that there are people out there wanting to help them. If they have a sprained ankle or swollen knee or hurt their finger, they know how to treat the body, but we want to make sure they know how to treat the mind and their emotional state, as well. Tomorrow (today — Sept. 9) is Wellness Wednesday and we’re going to have a new message out there and we’ll do that all year long. We want to make sure all our student-athletes and coaches or teachers or other adults get that message. I saw a story in the news that our doctors are saying there’s a 30% increase for mental health issues at the doctor’s office now. That is scary. We just want to make sure the kids know that they matter, there are people out there that care for them and that we are going to play again New Mexico.”