Every mother knows the pain of not being able to take away the hurt life disses out to their babies. New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez is no different. She knows the sting of not being able to watch her son play live sports in person.
She knows what it was like to turn thousands of basketball fans away from The Pit last year, at a cost to the coffers of NMAA’s pocketbook. Marquez can identify with the pain as much as any mother will in the upcoming sports season when sports comes back Oct. 10.
Marquez talked with J.P. Murrieta in an August interview after her son had graduated this past spring. There were videos online, where her son had graduated, showing kids playing and what was going on in schools.
“I looked at that,” Marquez said, “and everything they showed was athletics and activities. That’s the schools’ world, it is so important to kids and the education environment. That is first and foremost. We need our kids back in school. On all the videos, the kids were smiling, they were excited showing school spirit. That’s what we need.”
One of the most troubling things facing athletes once they are able to compete is their grades. In the beginning, every student was given a clean slate by the board of directors and allowed athletes to participate in sports once school started, regardless of how they finished up academically in the 2019 school year.
Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.
Support Local Journalism
“I have spoken to our coaches and athletic directors last week,” Marquez said. “I’m on school board meetings and I have another one and regional meets around the state. That is the one area that we are trying to focus on. We are telling coaches it is not about getting them in preseason workouts. Right now, it’s about getting their academics where they should be. Also, our superintendents are aware and have requested that the at-risk kids can come back to school.”
For any kids to participate with less than a 2.0 GPA and an F, the board of directors would have to meet and change the bylaws. Marquez is aware of the situation facing school districts and is monitoring it with the superintendents with the nine-week term up in the second to the third week in October.
One of the key initiatives for NMAA is Wellness Wednesday. It was started to let people know they matter and there are resources to help them if they are depressed, lonely and suicidal. NMAA wants to address the social, mental and emotional part of being a student and erase the stigma about mental illness.
Marquez believes that sports can be pushed back for two weeks before the winter break. If NMAA gets pushed back again for any length of time, they will have a time period of two weeks to get games in before winter break starts, so sports could begin around Oct. 15.
“We are doing everything we can with our calendar,” Marquez said. “From the beginning, I have always said our goal is to play every single sport in the 2021 school year and that goal has not changed.”
Marquez reiterated that she is looking for golf, volleyball and cross country to start on Oct. 5. Marquez said she’s in constant communications with the governor’s office and the Public Education Department in regard to education-based athletics.
If the sports calendar is pushed back to Jan. 4, NMAA has contingency plans for all sports. She said the superintendents did a great job of allowing education-based athletics to continue through the end of June. With that move, spring sports can be pushed back to insert football and soccer into the middle.
“I would tell you, being involved with him (son) through basketball and all of his friends,” Marquez said, “and then he is also involved in the activities world. It was, and I understand and I want everyone to understand that I understand exactly what it means when it comes to your son or daughter and getting things taken away and having to adjust in this hard period.
“It’s been very difficult. Fortunately, he’s able to go to college, and right now he’s in college and able to do face-to-face classes. He’s fortunate in that realm and there was a point where it was very tough. We had to redirect them to reaching goals and teach them lifelong skills, that bad things happen and there are things out of your control and how are you going to respond to them. I’m fortunate my son is responding positively toward them and he’s not looking back. He’s making goals for his future.”
Once sports returns, there will be no fans. Marquez wants to be able to have parents come and watch their children play. She couldn’t imagine not being able to see her son play last year. She felt like one of the hardest things last year in the state basketball tournament was that they couldn’t have fans and had to shut it down. She knows what it’s like being a parent herself. She has been working high schools to be able to stream the games for fans. If they are not able to have fans at the games, parents can watch their kids play every game at all levels. If there is a fee, that will be a school district decision.
“I do feel for parents,” Marquez said. “We need to stay positive. It is not ideal, the goal will still remain the same, that we will play all sports in the 2020-21 school year. It may be different, it may not be ideal, but we are going to do the best we can to make it happen.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.