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New Mexico athletes one step closer to playing

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Things are lining up for kids in New Mexico to salvage their senior years. On Monday, the New Mexico Activities Association and its Board of Directors met for an emergency hearing to settle schedules and to see if they can in fact play sports this academic school year. The answer was a resounding yes. There is nothing that the NMAA would love to do more than to salvage this season for the seniors. NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez talked with J.P. Murrieta to answer some of the questions parents and athletes have had.

J.P. Murrieta: Sally, the Board of Directors held a meeting for athletics. When can football start and what are the start dates for other sports?

New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez. (File Photo)

Sally Marquez: Right now, for fall sports the start date is the week of Feb. 22. We will have the calendar out as to what that means and how many practices, and when the sports competitions will begin. But Feb. 22 is what the board voted on.

Murrieta: If a school or a district decides not to have hybrid learning or chooses to stay all online, can they still participate in sports or what if a student chooses to remain all online when their school goes hybrid?

Marquez: At this time, as of today, schools need to be in the hybrid in order to participate. So, the school district staying remote will not be able to participate per the Governor’s Office and the Public Education Department. However, within a school, if a school district is hybrid and a child decides they are not going to do hybrid learning, that they would rather stay remote, that student-athlete would be able to participate in sports if they stay remote and their school is in hybrid.

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Murrieta: Are these seasons for all levels, varsity, junior varsity and C-teams?

Marquez: Yes, at this time it is for all teams. Varsity, C-teams, middle schools. However, that is a district decision. We just had an athletic directors meeting, and that might be something that might be looked at because of transportation, equipment or facilities, but at this point from our office, it is for all levels.

Murrieta: What if the student-athlete left the state to play a sport like football. Can they come back and play football in New Mexico?

Marquez: Depends on the sport. If they left the sport and played football, they cannot come back and play football this year. However, if they left the state to play football, and they come back to their original school and they want to play basketball, they are allowed to do that. So, it depends on the sport. If kids decide they left and they are going to play all sports this year, they’re going to be able to come back in the 2021-22 school year, if they come back to their same school, and participate without penalty.

Murrieta: If a district decides to sit out a season, can they come back and play next season?

Marquez: Oh sure, we are going to have schools opt-out of fall sports. They may want to do winter and spring. We may have schools that want to opt-out all year because they are going to go remote learning the second semester. There is no penalty, we just need to know by Feb. 15 for fall sports. Winter sports and spring, we don’t need to worry about that right now as far as making a decision whether you are going to play or not. But before fall sports, we just need to know by Feb. 15, whether they are going to opt-in or opt-out, or maybe they are going to come in at the beginning of March. We just need to know what they are thinking.

Murrieta: When will the 4:1 pod size change?

Marquez: At this point, we are going to do 4:1 until Feb. 22. We are hoping to expand those pods, that question is up at the Governor’s Office with the medical team. But at this point, it is 4:1 pods until Feb. 22.

Murrieta: Will there be a state championship to fall sports?

Marquez: We are hoping, but football is a different animal. For volleyball, we can do a quarterfinal, semifinals, and finals within one week. But for football, you cannot do that. You can only play one game per week. So, we are still looking at football, we have gathered input from the coaches and the athletic directors. And we have gathered input from our board of directors. We will make a determination for what is best for football, which will probably not be decided until we know how many teams are going to play football and that information will come on Feb. 15.

Murrieta: Will spirit and cheer be allowed at games?

Marquez: That has been asked a lot. First off, let us go back to spirit and cheer. They will be allowed to open up pods just like everyone else on Feb. 22. However, they will be subject to the same rules and regulations when it comes to fans in the stands. We do not know from the governor if fans will be allowed in the stands. As far as the spirit squads they will be allowed to open up and practice more; however, we do not know whether they will be able to cheer at games.

Murrieta: Do athletes need to get a physical?

Marquez: We’re going back to what we talked about in June. In fact, I just reminded our athletic directors that we haven’t talked about physicals since the summer. There is a questionnaire and after the parent answers the questions, it will be decided, can I use my 2020 physical for his year. The answer is yes. But there are some kids that might have some conditions that they are going to have to get a new physical for the 2021 school year. Your athletic director has all those guidelines when it comes to physicals, but that has to come back to the forefront because there might be some student-athletes that have to have a physical.

Murrieta: Do athletes and coaches have to wear masks?

Marquez: It is mask-wearing. We are going to say that over and over. I just told all of the coaches and athletic directors, and I’m telling you student-athletes and parents, it is mask-wearing 100% of the time. That includes the mask over the mouth guard for football and cross country.

Murrieta: Do athletes and coaches have to be vaccinated?

Marquez: Vaccination and school reentry, that’s on the Public Education Department. That is not a decision that the NMAA will get involved in.

Murrieta: What happens if there is a COVID outbreak in the school and the campus is closed, does it affect athletics?

Marquez: I think all things are going to affect athletic teams. We talk about game limitations and how many games can we play. We are going to start sports, but we have to remember there is a virus. There is a quarantine period when there is contact tracing is involved. We will work with the Public Education Department and the local school, and the school is going to be working with their nurse and the Department of Health and let us know, a team might have to shut down for two weeks. A school might have to shut down for two weeks. So, we will get that information from the school the Department of Health and then we will act accordingly in what needs to be done for competitions.

Murrieta: Lastly, now that there is a start date and official calendar, what is the most important message you can give to all the student-athletes, coaches, and parents?

Marquez: I think patience. That is probably the word I would like to use. We have a start and I have been saying: ‘We are going to play sports again in New Mexico.’ We are going to play, but it is not going to be like the 2019 school year or the 2018 school year. It is going to be a little bit different. But our kids are going to be able to participate. I know a lot of kids and coaches; we talk about the blue trophy and the championships. We need to not even focus on that. We need to focus on just our kids getting back with their coaches and teammates, and us having friendly competition and tough competition with their rivals. It is going to be a little bit different. What I would like to say is we are there. It’s not ideal and it is not going to be ideal this year, but yes, we are getting to play. Like I said in the last video, I’m more confident than ever that we are going to play sports again.

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