NJSIAA announces Phase 1 guidelines for returning to sports
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association on Friday afternoon issued its Phase 1 guidelines regarding a fall season resumption of high school sports.
Phase 1 will begin on July 13 and run through at least July 26. During that time, summer workouts will be permitted but must follow certain conditions laid out by the NJSIAA.
- All student-athletes will need to be pre-screened before participation. Each school district will have to designate someone who is not a coach to conduct daily pre-screening. All coaches, players and staff must clear the pre-screening process before they can participate in that day’s practice.
- Coaches, players and staff will have to fill out a pre-screening questionnaire and have their temperature checked. Any individual who has a temperature higher than 100.4 or answers ‘yes’ to any question on the questionnaire cannot participate in the workout and must return home. Those individuals who answered ‘yes’ also need to be cleared by a doctor before they will be allowed to practice.
- The COVID-19 questionnaire must be completed seven days prior to the start of the summer recess period (July 13).
- Staggered arrival and departure times for student-athletes are highly encouraged.
- All workouts/practices must be conducted outdoors
- Practices are limited to 90 minutes and are to include a 10-minute warm-up period and a 10-minute cool-down period.
- Workouts will be limited to conditioning, skill sets and sport-specific, non-contact drills.
- Only one workout per day and one day of rest every seven days.
- Only players, coaches and appropriate school personnel may be present.
- No physical conduct of any kind between student-athletes and coaches.
- Coaches should have pre-planned, structured workouts for the duration of the session.
- The NJSIAA’s Heat Participation Policy applies.
- Student-athletes should be provided with unlimited access to fluids.
- Players who are engaged in high-intensity aerobic activity such as running, sprinting, etc. do not need to wear a face-covering during the activity but need to once it has been completed.
- Student-athletes who are not engaged in high-intensity aerobic activities and doing other tasks such as waiting in line, watching videos, reviewing plays, etc., are encouraged to wear face coverings.
- Coaches and district personnel must wear face coverings at all times.
- No more than 10 players can be grouped together in a single area. Those groups have to be determined by the coach prior to practice.
- Social distancing of at least six feet must be maintained at all times, including within the 10-person group.
- Once the groups are selected players cannot switch to another group, even for another sport.
- More than one group of student-athletes can be in the same area as long as there is 12 to 18 feet in between each group.
- Groups selected prior to the first practice of Phase 1 must remain the same throughout the entirety of Phase 1.
- No celebratory contact such as high-fives, fist bumps or huddles
- Student-athletes who participate in more than one sport are encouraged to be grouped with their fall sports teammates.
- Equipment will not be shared during Phase 1, although a football or basketball can be passed back and forth provided there is frequent sanitizing and disinfecting of the ball, players' hands, etc. Football players are encouraged to wear football gloves.
- Each student-athlete must bring their own water bottle for personal use and should not share it.
- All sports equipment and touchpoints, such as benches, agility cones, ladders, clipboards, etc., must be clean and disinfected at the conclusion of each workout with EPA approved cleaners and disinfectants against COVID-19.
- There will be no locker room access.
- One person at a time in all restrooms
- Restrooms shall be cleaned and disinfected regularly with EPA approved cleaners and disinfectants against COVID-19.
- All those present should make every effort to wash their hands as often as possible, including before and after the workout.
- Hand sanitizer must be accessible at all times.
- There will be no changing of clothes; student-athletes must arrive and depart in the same workout gear.
- No spitting, chewing seeds or gum.
Phase 1 is anticipated to last until July 26. Progression to Phase 2 will be dependent upon directives from the Governor’s Office and changes in the spread of COVID-19 throughout New Jersey. There will be four total phases, NJSIAA Assistant Director Tony Maselli said during a video conference with media members. Guidance for each progressive phase will be issued at least two weeks prior to that phase beginning.
While July 13 is the date workouts can resume under these guidelines, there is the possibility that not every district will allow its student-athletes and coaches to return until a later date.
“The first major hurdle is going to be the school districts to even permit this,” Maselli said. “High school athletics don’t operate by themselves, it’s a function of an entire school district. Even though we have guidelines, will they be prepared to have kids back on campus?”
Maselli said the main goal of Phase 1 is to get student-athletes back to sports with a focus on the individual athletes, i.e. conditioning, skill work, etc. Intrasquad competition will not be permitted.
Girls volleyball and gymnastics are the only two fall sports that take place indoors, which presents unique challenges. Phase 1 activities are outdoors only.
“We will touch on and address those sports on Phase 2,” Maselli said. “Things are changing so rapidly; we changed a lot of Phase 1 stuff in the past few days. Those sports (girls volleyball and gymnastics) are going to have to be creative in those first two weeks.”
While the status of the fall season is uncertain, especially since the Governor’s Office has yet to announce guidelines on a return to in-person learning, the NJSIAA is operating as if there will be a fall sports season and anticipates that will not change.
As a parent, we are all very eager to get our kids back,” said NJSIAA Chief Operating Officer Colleen Maguire. “Not only for physical activity but for social and mental well-being. We’re hoping by announcing July 13 it gives kids that sense of relief, the optimism to look ahead to a fall season. That, mentally, right now is very important for kids to hear. I am concerned that is this shutdown and cancellations continue there will be really long-term effects on these kids.”
“We are of the mindset that we are full-steam ahead with fall sports until some authority tells us otherwise.”
“We feel for the athletes who lost that (the spring season),” Maselli said. “We’re steaming forward to restart the (fall) season the best we can. We don’t want to lose that.”
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