NJSIAA Provides Initial Guidelines for Sports Return

NJSIAA Provides Initial Guidelines for Sports Return

Nobody knows for sure if there will be a high school fall sports season, but the NJSIAA has provided some return to play guidelines.

The NJSIAA, in a memo to member schools that is on its website, said it is aiming summer recess period on or around July 13.

Here is the rest of the memo.

NJSIAA anticipates providing member schools with specific guidelines, in compliance with New Jersey Department of Education (DOE), New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), and CDC guidelines, on or before June 19.

Of note, coaches may continue virtual contact with players until the summer recess period officially begins. Regarding a potential July 13 start date for the summer recess period, 
start dates for all fall sports seasons currently remain unchanged, though the NJSIAA memo states that these dates may still be revised.

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“While Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 149 specifies that high school sports activities may not begin prior to June 30, a mid-July start date to the summer recess period would provide schools the opportunity to implement specific recommendations. If a mid-July start date were to be implemented, final determination of when practices would actually begin would be up to individual school districts.

“NJSIAA has established direct communication with the governor’s office, the state departments of health and education, and other state associations that are in similar situations regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA chief operating officer. “While we’re hopeful school-based athletics will start soon, the public needs to understand that high school sports are unique in that, unlike recreational programs, they must be in sync with our schools. Scholastic sports are part of the curriculum; they don’t operate independently.”

Decisions on the specific timing for returning to play will, in part, be based on input from the NJSIAA’s Medical Advisory Task Force. The task force is reviewing the best available science and will make recommendations consistent with input from the CDC and National Federation of State High School Associations.

“We believe it’s essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the state to return to physical activity and athletic competition in a safe and phased manner,” says Dr. Damion Martins,  medical director of Sports Medicine at Atlantic Health System, New York Jets team physician, and member of the NJSIAA Medical Advisory Task Force. “Our guiding principles include the need to screen for symptoms, promote appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices, and decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets.”

While some states have already opened high school athletics, the NJSIAA cautions that New Jersey is unique in that it is the most densely populated state and has the second highest number of total COVID-19 cases.

In our opinion, the NJSIAA is tying to buy as much time as possible and that appears to be the best move. A month’s time can make a huge difference concerning the coronavirus, and it’s best to wait as long as possible.

In that time the virus could show a steep decline, or we could see a spike but at least there will be more data.

Here is the key point of the memo: “start dates for all fall sports seasons currently remain unchanged, though the NJSIAA memo states that these dates may still be revised.”

The fact that it’s possible that fall sports could be played in the fall is a positive, and the fact that the dates could be revised is realistic.

We recently wrote about contingency plans being discussed for New Jersey high school sports, such as moving the fall sports to the spring and not starting high school sports at all until the winter.

Right now, everything is on the table. The best-case scenario is keeping fall sports in the fall and it appears the NJSIAA would like to do that, but right now nobody can say for certainty what the actual plan will be.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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