Category Archives: high schools

C-Town Soccer set for state tourney in Gatlinburg

By Maurice Patton

One last time to wear the purple and gold? Not quite, but members of the Columbia Central boys soccer team will have one final chance to take the pitch together next month.

The Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association 2020 State Championships will take place at Gatlinburg’s Rocky Top Sports World, with the ‘Lions’ among the participants.

“Due to not having Spring Fling, we put together this event,” THSSCA president Russ Plummer said of the championships – which will involve players from Class AAA, Class AA, Class A (July 9-11) and Division II (July 13-15) programs. “We’re trying to do what we can to help the kids.

“As far as (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) guidelines go, there are certain things we cannot do. We cannot wear school uniforms. We can’t be called ‘Hendersonville High School Commandos’. Basically you have to register your team as an independent team; that way it’s all good insurance-wise, as well. We’re doing everything we can to play for the kids, and at the same time be in line with TSSAA. They’ve told us the dos and don’ts we can and can’t do.”

Playing as the C-Town Soccer Club, coach Greg Szydlowski said 20 players will travel for the quarterfinal matchup in the Class AAA Flight 2 on July 9 against Ravenwood.

“We’re wearing our colors; we just had to buy new jerseys,” Szydlowski said. “We’ll be purple and black. We started practice Monday.”

Summit, meanwhile, will play in the Class AAA Flight 3 and open its eight-team bracket against Shelbyville on July 9.

In Class AAA, 24 teams were grouped based on seedings by the participating coaches. The championship flight will consist of teams from Station Camp, Collierville, Bearden, Farragut, Brentwood, Hendersonville, Houston and Franklin. In addition to Ravenwood and Columbia Central, Flight 2 will include teams from Overton, Smyrna, Science Hill, Bartlett, Dobyns-Bennett and Knoxville West. Flight 3 will include teams from Siegel, Warren County, Lenoir City, Soddy Daisy, Beech and Jefferson County along with the Spartans and Golden Eagles.

“Unfortunately, not everybody agreed with the rankings, but when do people agree with all the rankings – in any sport, not just soccer?” said Plummer. “There’s been some (seeding) proposals for the TSSAA in the past. I think a lot of coaches … would rather at the state tournament have a seeding process.

“It’ll at least be a good experiment.”

Among the C-Town players will be Lipscomb University signee Preston Price, who scored three goals in Columbia Central’s two victories this spring – giving him a career total of 87 — before the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of schools and school athletics statewide.

“We’re just trying to give these kids an opportunity,” said Szydlowski, whose Lions were coming off consecutive Class AAA state sectional appearances. “This is a special group. I’m sad for these seniors, sad for everybody. But this gives us an opportunity. After we play Ravenwood, we’ll play Overton or Smyrna, win or lose. It’s going to be a fun couple of days. The second flight is going to be just as difficult as the first.”

Participating teams in Class AA include Sevier County, South-Doyle, Loudon, Greeneville, Cumberland County, Fairview and Knoxville Central. In Class A, teams from Gatlinburg, LEAD Academy, Austin-East, Chattanooga Arts & Sciences, Madison Academic, Oneida, Merrol Hyde and Alcoa will compete. The Division II fields have yet to be completed.

Plummer said much of the planning of the event has been with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.

“They’re having other events already (at Rocky Top Sports World),” he said. “We’ve done all our homework. There’s been a committee that’s met – or Zoomed – quite often. We have a plan if we have to have zero fans, we have a plan if we can only have 50, but right now the fan thing is wide open. The only thing we’re doing right now is, you have to buy your tickets ahead of time (gofan.co/highschoolcup). We can skip one more phase of having to handle money, that interaction. We’re trying to think of everything possible to pull this off for the kids, but we all realize things can change overnight.

“One of the main organizers (Gatlinburg-Pittman coach Zach Schrandt) lives in that area. … He’s very much in tune to what’s going on there. Zach has really been the lead man on this. He presented this, did a lot of the homework. He deserves all the credit in the world for this.”

For more information on the championships, including brackets, visit thssca.net.

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Athletics important to MCPS director finalists

By Maurice Patton

After narrowing down the field of potential replacements for Chris Marczak as director of Maury County Public Schools to three, the finalists – Mickey Hall, Michael Hickman and Aimee Wyatt – each recently visited Columbia.

While in town, they each took part in a question-and-answer session with members of the community, facilitated by the Maury County Education Association, at Columbia Central.

Southern Middle Tennessee Sports was on hand to discuss their athletic backgrounds and their views on   the importance of athletics to the overall educational experience, particularly as it relates to high schools.

With the MCPS board meeting Monday and expected to possibly announce a decision, here are the comments from the three candidates.

Mickey Hall (deputy director/chief financial officer, Wilson County Schools): “(Athletics) not just in high school are very important. Athletics keeps kids in school; band keeps kids in school; arts keep kids in school. I grew up playing sports, I’ve been a coach, in baseball and AAU (basketball). My son and daughter have experienced the state tournament. … Those extracurricular activities keep a lot of kids in school.

Mickey Hall (left)

“(Regarding county equity) That’s a two-headed sword. You can do a self-audit, at the district level. At the district level, they’ll appraise each of your schools. But you’ve got to be willing to live with the consequences. I’ve been through two (Office of Civil Rights, a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education) investigations in our district. When they come in, they do not care who you are; they care that … the female athletes have the same opportunities as the male athletes, that they have the same number of locker rooms for both male and female. If you’ve got a weight room that’s labeled ‘football’, you’re in violation of OCR right now. If it’s a weight room and it’s scheduled for all athletes, you’re OK. They’re going to look at how you advertise your program, if there’s as many female pictures as male pictures. A self-audit can be done, but you have to be willing to live with the consequences and either take away or add to.”

Michael Hickman

Michael Hickman (principal, Mt. Juliet Elementary School): “Obviously I played sports. … I coached basketball and baseball at the middle school level. ‘The importance of sports’ – you gotta be careful. I’m going to talk about sports, activities; all of these are very important. There are some students that, they’re coming to school for sports. That ‘mentor’ is their coach. It keeps them pushing in school. For some kids, that’s their only outlet. But it goes to the clubs, some of the other after-school programs. Kids need to belong to something. I’ve told many parents in my career, ‘make sure your kids joins a club, a sport, something after school’. They want to belong. If they can’t find something, they’re going to find something on their own and it’s probably not going to be something you’d want them to be a part of. It’s integral – the different leaderships, all the qualities it can lead to. You don’t want to leave out or make clubs and all these other things we do any less (than athletics), because it’s all the same for what it can give to kids. The extra education, the extra mentors, it’s huge.”

Aimee Wyatt

Aimee Wyatt (director of state and district partnerships, Southern Regional Education Board): “Athletics and extracurricular activities are important to me. We’ve been a part of a research study where we put all the students’ (grade-point averages) down, we put down how many activities they were involved in, and there’s almost an exact correlation between the GPA of the student and the number of clubs, organizations, athletics that they’re in. Arts, athletics, anything you do outside of school is experiential learning. It helps with socialization, it helps with being a better citizen, and that all goes into making you a well-rounded student. … You also want to make sure we have something for everybody at some school. We’ve got to make sure we find as many things to float their boat. My one son wasn’t an athlete, but he was in chess club. My other son was a baseball player.

“(Regarding gender equity) So there’s a short-term plan and a long-term plan. You have to devise what the ideal situation looks like and map out how we get there, and in the meantime you have to look at alternatives, scheduling, play, so that they still get the same services. It’s not OK that they don’t have the same quality. So how does that look? What facilities can we look at or share or maneuver schedules so that can happen until we can get the adequate facility that is equal to the other facilities around?”

Columbia Central football coach Jason Hoath, who was in the audience for each of the three forums, expressed optimism regarding the candidates and the support he’d expect from them.

“I think if you ask any coach, we’d always want more,” Hoath said. “But you notice all three of the candidates said something along the same lines: Athletics, as well as clubs, different things students are involved with are important and encouraged.

“I guess the hope is that we can be able to compete with the counties around us as far as facilities and things of that nature – what’s going to entice people living in Middle Tennessee, what’s going to make us stand out from other counties. In the coaching world, that’s always going to be facilities. Wins and losses play in that, too. If you’re going to place a child in a school system, academics are going to be No. 1, but if they’re involved in athletics or other activities, what does this school have to offer, as opposed to one county over? Those are things I would look at – what’s the program like, what are the facilities like?

“Hopefully we’ll have that support and as we enter this new era, it’ll be good on all ends.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Split vote leaves dead period in place

By Maurice Patton

Following a vote taken by the 12-member Legislative Council during a specially called remote meeting Thursday, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s two-week dead period will remain in place.

After the mid-March dismissal of schools statewide because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the correspondent stoppage of athletic activity, a number of coaches have been of the opinion that a break – after summer workouts have just recently resumed – is now unnecessary after so much preparation time for the 2020-21 season has already been lost.

By a 6-6 roll-call count, though, a motion to suspend the dead period on a one-year basis failed. As a result, no school-related athletic activities can take place between June 22-July 4.

Columbia Academy resumed workouts earlier this week, with Maury County Public Schools set to do so Monday.

“We don’t ever want to put sports before families, and many families make plans for the dead period every year,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “This is not the first year we’ve had the dead period, and as eager as coaches are to get back to their routine, the Council ultimately felt that there wasn’t a strong enough case for doing away with it this year.”

Those voting in favor of suspending the dead period were Council vice president Keith Turner (Science Hill), Rob Speas (Hardin Valley Academy), Autumn O’Bryan (Cleveland), Les Trotter (Waverly), Dexter Williams (West Carroll) and Bo Griffin (Millington). 

Voting against were Greg Wyant (Siegel), Art Crook (Station Camp), Council president Dan Black (Bradford), Kenny Sholl (McCallie), Robert Sain (Middle Tennessee Christian) and Tom Densford (St. George’s).

Historically, the Legislative Council and the Board of Control were each nine-member bodies, with each of the state’s athletic districts represented. Following the establishment of Division II, the bylaws were changed in 2015 to grant independent schools in each Grand Division a representative as well – resulting in 12-member bodies in each case.

“I can maybe count on one hand the number of Board of Control votes that have ended in a tie,” assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said. “I don’t remember any in the Legislative Council. They’ve been few and far between, if at all.”

Interestingly, each of the Council’s three DII representatives voted against suspending the dead period.

“I kinda felt like they’d choose – before I went into the meeting – to eliminate the dead period and use our time off as ‘time served’,” said Trotter, the Council representative from Athletic District 6, which includes Maury County as well as Cheatham, Dickson, Giles, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lawrence, Lewis, Marshall, Perry, Wayne and Williamson counties.

“After listening to Bernard and some of the others, I realized it was going to be a pretty close vote or (they would) choose to keep it intact, and that’s what they did.”

Had the dead period been eliminated, the option of continuing to practice could have been decided by individual school systems, schools or coaches.

“I think the fear is that a coach would put some influence on a kid – ‘you can go on vacation, but when you come back, you’re going to be behind,’ Trotter said. “But each school system is different. You’re dealing with different dynamics. Williamson County kids probably go on more vacations than Maury County kids or Lawrence County kids.

“You ought to trust a coach to make a decision and not be difficult or vindictive.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Local coaches discuss plan for return to work

Columbia Central’s refurbished weight room will get busy as summer workouts under COVID-19 guidelines are set to start on June 8. Mt. Pleasant and Spring Hill will begin offseason practices then as well. (Photo by Maurice Patton)

By Maurice Patton

High school coaches in Maury County now know when they will be able to begin summer workouts with their athletes, and the COVID-19 parameters within which those workouts can take place.

How many athletes they will have to work with looms as the sticking point.

Chris Poynter, athletics director for Maury County Public Schools, distributed “a plan that is safe and realistic as it pertains to slowly opening our facilities and bringing back our student-athletes/band members to train and practice” to MCPS principals, ADs, coaches and band directors.

The plan allows students — with updated physicals — to “begin training, try-out and practicing for their respective teams” on June 8.

This portion of the startup differs from the guidelines previously recommended by the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, in which an extension on physicals from the 2019-20 school year was suggested for participation.

“A lot can happen between March and the second week of June,” Poynter said, referring to the last school-related physical activity for MCPS athletes. “These kids have been sitting around since March. To have kids come out in 80-, 90-degree weather and ramp back up that quickly, we think it’s unsafe.

“In this season of COVID, it’s good to have a medical professional look at them. It makes the transition a lot easier and gives everyone that peace of mind.”

Coaches across the county are concerned with the prospects of all their athletes having updated physicals in time for the June 8 start.

“The first thing I did was call and make an appointment for my (children) – for Thursday,” Columbia Central football coach Jason Hoath said. “With every kid in Maury County trying to get a physical in Maury County in a week, I don’t see it as a realistic expectation. But we’re going to do the best we can.

“I understand the reason we’re doing it. You want to make sure they’re ready to participate after not doing anything the last 9-10 weeks. But it’s going to be difficult to get everybody in in a week.”

Poynter, who said priority for practice is to be given to fall sports (football, girls soccer, volleyball, cross country and golf) during the month of June, also said efforts are being made to secure free physicals with local medical providers.

“The logistics of getting 70-75 kids a physical in a week’s time – it’s sometimes hard when we’ve got three months,” Spring Hill football coach Ben Martin said. “But I’m just glad we have some sort of guidelines and have been given the go-ahead to start, to be able to tell our kids something and not look like I don’t know what in the world is going on when they call.”

Coaches will be required to submit their plans for return to Poynter during the upcoming week for approval. Those plans will include practice times and sites, as well as areas that will need to be covered by custodial staff.

Athletes will be expected to maintain social distance and work in groups of nine or less with a coach, with “noticeable distance and separation” between groups, whether working indoors or outdoors. The same athletes are expected to remain together as they move from station to station. Athletes can remove masks during physical activity but are expected to wear them otherwise. No physical contact is to take place. 

“It’ll be a little challenging at first, but I think we can make it work,” Mt. Pleasant football coach Bronson Bradley said. “The larger schools may have more of a problem than us, but I think we’ve got a pretty good plan set forth to go by those guidelines.

“I’m pretty excited … mainly to see the guys. I haven’t really seen them since March 14. I’m just excited to see them and get back in a routine of things.”

That routine will be somewhat shortlived, as the TSSAA-mandated dead period begins June 21 and ends July 4.

“We’ve got to get a plan together, use the space we’ve got to work with and get as much done as we can in the time that’s been allotted for us,” Hoath said. “We’ll do what we can do in two weeks.”

In communicating with MCPS personnel, Poynter was unsure as to how activities would continue after the dead period.

“At this time there are too many uncertainties to explore what the month of July moving forward will look like,” he said. “As we get into the month of June, we will be able to determine if we will be able to remove any of the restrictions outlined for the month of June.”

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

Maury County’s Ironmen and Ironwomen

By Maurice Patton

With Aedan Turner leading the way, 60 athletes from Maury County were recently recognized by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association for participating in three or more TSSAA-sanctioned sports during the 2019-20 school year.

Based on eligibility reports submitted by each school for each sport, Columbia Academy had 20 such athletes – including Turner, the county’s lone five-sport participant who bowled, ran on the cross country and track teams and played golf and soccer for the Bulldogs.

CA’s Franklin Walker took part in four sports, running track in addition to playing baseball, basketball and football.

Zion Christian Academy had 17 athletes appearing on three or more rosters, including Max Brown (baseball, basketball, football, soccer) and Madison Hayes (basketball, soccer, tennis and volleyball).

Mt. Pleasant (eight three-sport athletes) and Spring Hill (three) each boasted a four-sport participant as well – Keshawn Hudson (baseball, basketball, track and football) for the Tigers, Kevin Carabello (cross country, track, football, wrestling) for the Raiders.

Each of the county’s athletic programs had at least one three-sport athlete.

Printable certificates commemorating these athletes’ accomplishments have been distributed by the TSSAA state office to each school. Distributing those to the athletes, in light of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, may not be possible, according to officials. 

Of the 83,000-plus athletes at TSSAA member schools, a total of 3,036 participated in more than two sports – less than four percent.

“If the pandemic has reminded us of anything, a child’s school days are precious,” TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. “That’s why our principals and athletic directors need to create an environment in their schools where students can experience as many different sports as they want.

“Telling a kid they can’t do something just because one coach or another doesn’t want them to is basically cheating them out of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Across the state, five schools reported 25 or more athletes that took part in at least three sports: Battle Ground Academy; Briarcrest Christian; Franklin Road Academy; Pearl-Cohn; and Westmoreland.

“Our athletic programs do not exist to serve college sports programs, but it is worth reminding coaches and parents that college recruiters are looking for students that display a great attitude, work ethic and leadership qualities,” Childress said. “Those are traits that you develop through participating in a variety of activities.”

Maury County’s three-sport athletes:

Columbia Acad. – Bryant Beranek (baseball, basketball, football); Anna Claire Butt (basketball, soccer, tennis); Hallie Butterfield (basketball, tennis, volleyball); Kennedy Chatman (basketball, softball, volleyball); Annabelle Cothran (cross country, softball, track and field); Devon Del Carmen (track and field, football, soccer); Chase Duncan (baseball, basketball, golf); Ella Fuller (basketball, track and field, volleyball); Caroline Graham (basketball, cross country, track and field); Julianna Hanson (basketball, soccer, track and field); Jaelyn Hickerson (basketball, cross country, track and field); Will Jackson (baseball, basketball, football); Graham Lewis (track and field, football, soccer); Collins Malone (basketball, track and field, football); Gavin Morgan (basketball, cross country, track and field); Hayden Morgan (basketball, cross country, track and field), Jacob Perry (baseball, basketball, football); Aedan Turner (bowling, cross country, golf, track and field, soccer); Laney Turner (basketball, softball, volleyball); Franklin Walker (baseball, basketball, track and field, football)

Columbia Central – Lizbeth Tadeo-Vargas (cross country, track and field, wrestling)

Culleoka – Kaydence Humphrey (basketball, soccer, softball); Mary Norton (basketball, cross country, soccer)

Hampshire – Ethan Bowden (baseball, basketball, cross country); Errette Delk (baseball, basketball, cross country)

Mt. Pleasant – Kylie Brewer (basketball, softball, volleyball); T.J. Bridges (cross country, tennis, track and field); Jackson Gary (baseball, cross country, track and field); Baleigh Gray (basketball, cross country, softball); Benjamin Hirsch (baseball, cross country, track and field); Keshawn Hudson (baseball, basketball, track and field, football); Audrey Kittrell (basketball, softball, volleyball); Jakob Smith (basketball, cross country, tennis)

Santa Fe – Elise Adkison (basketball, softball, volleyball), Gracey Bates (basketball, cross country, volleyball), Josh Martin (baseball, basketball, cross country), Terralyn Pemberton (basketball, softball, volleyball); Shelby Rector (golf, softball, volleyball), Ally Warf (basketball, cross country, volleyball), Logan Wilkins (baseball, basketball, golf)

Spring Hill – Kevin Carabello (cross country, track and field, football, wrestling), Katherine Carter (basketball, softball, volleyball), Kemonta Fry (track and field, football, wrestling)

Zion Chr. – Halle Adcox (basketball, softball, volleyball), Jack Brown (baseball, basketball, soccer), Max Brown (baseball, basketball, football, soccer); William Craig (cross country, tennis, track and field); Madison Hayes (basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball); Becca Hazard (basketball, softball, volleyball); Ana Hudson (soccer, tennis, volleyball); Sarah Joiner (soccer, softball, volleyball); Kathryn Kennedy (basketball, softball, volleyball); Zach Knowles (basketball, football, soccer); Mark Lowery (baseball, basketball, football); Connor Matheny (basketball, football, soccer); Emily Mesko (basketball, soccer, softball); Warren Riggins (basketball, football, soccer); Wesley Riggins (basketball, football, soccer); Dillan Runions (basketball, football, soccer); Peyton White (basketball, softball, volleyball)

Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. He can be reached by e-mail at mopattonsports@gmail.com or on Twitter at @mopatton_sports.

NFHS sets COVID-19 guidelines for summer workouts

SM-Tn Sports

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association recently distributed a pair of documents related to the restart of activities under COVID-19 guidelines to its membership, as programs begin offseason preparation for the fall sports seasons.

From the TSSAA:

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recently released its Return to Sport Guidelines to state high school athletic associations across the country. You are receiving this document from TSSAA to serve as guidance for informational purposes.

What has become very clear is that policies enacted at the state, city, and local levels may ultimately determine whether or not you are able to engage in the specific types of activities described in this document. As a result, TSSAA is not in a position to develop policy regarding coordinated approaches to activity. The NFHS guidelines are based on the federal guidelines for the phased reopening of America.

We are not aware of a central repository of information that delineates what recovery phase your school or school system may be under. When using this document, you will need to consult with local authorities in determining which of the three phases would be appropriate for the development of your specific guidelines. 

We know that a number of you either have developed, or, are in the process of developing your own guidelines for your school or school system. We encourage you to review the attached document as you develop your school or school system policy. 

If you have access to the services of a certified athletic trainer, school nurse, office of coordinated school health, central office staff, governing boards and local health departments, consider collaboration with these individuals in an effort to develop specific plans that will enable kids to safely return to activities. As we become aware of additional resources that can assist you in this process, we will quickly pass those along. 

In addition to guidelines for practice and conditioning sessions, the NFHS document contains guidelines for contests. Questions about regular season contests, postseason tournaments, playoffs and state championships are matters that we believe are best addressed at a later date. We will continue to examine these issues in an effort to develop answers as new information and guidance becomes available. 

We know these are important issues, but our most urgent focus is on safely returning kids to activities this summer. Preliminary research strongly suggests that school closure and cancellation of activities is having a significant impact on the physical and mental health of students. It is our hope that this guiding document will help schools design specific plans that maximize opportunities for their students to return to activities while minimizing the risk for COVID-19 exposure.

From the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee:

The COVID-19 pandemic presents state high school associations with a myriad of challenges. The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) offers this document as guidance on how state associations can consider approaching the many components of “opening up” high school athletics and activities across the United States. 

The NFHS SMAC believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition. The NFHS SMAC recognizes that it is likely that ALL students will not be able to return to – and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools, regions and states. There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and allsituations where it can be done safely. 

Since NFHS member state associations are a well-respected voice for health and safety issues, the NFHS SMAC strongly urges that these organizations engage with state and local health departments to develop policy regarding coordinated approaches for return to activity for high school, club and youth sports. 

The recommendations presented in this document are intended as ideas for state associations to consider with their respective SMACs and other stakeholders in designing return-to-activity guidelines that will be in accordance with state or local restrictions. 

Please note that the phases of “opening up” outlined below are based upon the White House document released in April 2020. Consult your state and local health departments to review if they are using a similar approach, or how the phases in this document correspond to your state or local governments nomenclature. 

Some state associations may wish to consider the following four questions before further deliberation on this document: 

1. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if public schools statewide are closed to in-person learning (apart from regularly scheduled school breaks)? 

2. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools are closed only in COVID-19 “hotspots” in your state? (excluding participants from schools that are closed)? 

3. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season in sports deemed “lower-risk” for COVID-19 transmission while cancelling athletics/activities considered “higher-risk?” 

4. Are there recommendations unique to your state – or regions of your state – that you need to take into consideration when developing return-to-activity guidelines? 

Points of Emphasis: 

1. Decreasing potential exposure to respiratory droplets is the guiding principle behind social distancing and the use of face coverings. It is also the basis of the stratification of risk by sport presented later on in this document. The use of cloth face coverings is meant to decrease the spread of respiratory droplets. As state and local COVID-19 prevalence decreases, the need for strict social distancing and the use of face coverings will lessen. Look to guidance from your state and local health departments. 

A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is additionally “advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”

B. Recognizing the benefits and potential drawbacks of the use of cloth face coverings during conditioning and physical activity, the NFHS SMAC recommends the following: 

i. State, local or school district guidelines for cloth face coverings should be strictly followed. 

ii. Cloth face coverings should be considered acceptable. There is no need to require or recommend “medical grade” masks for athletic activity. 

iii. Any student who prefers to wear a cloth face covering during a contest should be allowed to do so. 

iv. In the absence of guidelines to the contrary, we recommend that cloth face coverings be worn by students during Phases 1 and 2 as outlined below. Exceptions are swimming, distance running or other high intensity aerobic activity. Cloth face coverings may continue to be used during Phase 3 when not engaging in vigorous activity, such as sitting on the bench during contests, in the locker room and in the athletic training room. 

v. Plastic shields covering the entire face (or attached to a helmet) shall not be allowed during contests. Their use during practices increases the risk of unintended injury to the person wearing the shield or teammates. 

vi. Coaches, officials and other contest personnel may wear cloth face coverings at all times during Phases 1 through 3. (Artificial noisemakers such as an air horn or a timer system with an alarm can be used to signal in place of a traditional whistle.) 

2. Testing regimens, specific guidelines regarding mass gatherings, and response to a student or team member testing positive for COVID-19 (including contact tracing) are all currently under review, and guidance will come from CDC and state and local health departments. Limited testing availability, lack of resources for contact tracing, and expanding knowledge of the characteristics of COVID-19 transmission could all result in significant changes to the recommendations below. The NFHS SMAC and state association SMACs expect to disseminate this information as it becomes available. 

3. Due to the near certainty of recurrent outbreaks this coming fall and winter in some locales, state associations must be prepared for periodic school closures and the possibility of some teams having to isolate for two to three weeks while in-season. Development of policies is recommended regarding practice and/or competition during temporary school closures, the cancellation of contests during the regular season, and parameters for the cancellation or premature ending to post-season events/competitions. 

4. With the uncertainty of which phase will be attained at the beginning of a sports season or maintained during a season, scheduling contests that require less travel when possible should be considered. Such scheduling will reduce time spent in buses or vans. It will also potentially decrease the need for rescheduling contests as “opening up” may occur regionally. If opponents at the time of a contest are subject to different restrictions, re-scheduling that contest for a later date may be problematic. 

5. The principles presented in this guidance document can be applied to practices, rehearsals, and events for the performing arts with the exception of singing and the playing of wind instruments. The extent of the spread of respiratory droplets during these activities is currently under investigation and further guidance will issued as it becomes available. 

6. “Vulnerable individuals” are defined by CDC as people age 65 years and older and others with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune systems are compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy. 

7. Until a cure, vaccine or very effective treatment is readily available, or so-called “herd immunity” is confidently reached, social distancing and other preventive measures such as face covering will be a “new normal” if workouts, practices and contests are to continue. 

Areas to Address: 

1. Administrative 

A. Preparticipation Physical Evaluation 

Due to concerns regarding access to primary care providers during the late spring and early summer, the NFHS SMAC released a position statement giving guidance to state associations concerning timing of the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation. Options vary from a one-year extension to keeping current requirements. State associations and their SMACs can also consider interim history updates by having students complete a form or having a telemedicine visit with their primary care provider. 

B. Mandatory Education 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of essentially all “in person” educational events. It is recommended that online education courses take the place of “hands on” or in-person training, whenever possible. This includes accepting online training courses for AED/CPR and First Aid for the 2020-21 academic year. 

C. Equipment Reconditioning 

The National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA) has advised the NFHS that significant equipment reconditioning capacity is currently operational. If schools have not sent out equipment for reconditioning, they should be directed to do so immediately. If schools currently have equipment being reconditioned, a school official should contact the reconditioning company to make specific delivery arrangements if their school is currently closed. 

D. Conduct of Conditioning and Practice Sessions 

Phases are in accordance with guidelines published by the White House and CDC available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/. Please consult with your local or state health department regarding their plan for “opening up” your state. Not all states are using the same criteria, and what is allowable during specific phases will vary from state to state, or even within a state. Use the following as a resource in designing a plan for your state. Please note that there will be “gating” criteria to establish Phase 1 and the further criteria must be met to advance from one phase to the next. These criteria will be determined by state and/or local governments and must be strictly followed. 

Phase 1 

Pre- workout Screening: 

• All coaches and students should be screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout. Screening includes a temperature check. 

• Responses to screening questions for each person should be recorded and stored so that there is a record of everyone present in case a student develops COVID-19 (see Appendix II for sample Monitoring Form). 

• Any person with positive symptoms reported should not be allowed to take part in workouts and should contact his or her primary care provider or other appropriate health-care professional. 

• Vulnerable individuals should not oversee or participate in any workouts during Phase 1. 

Limitations on Gatherings: 

• No gathering of more than 10 people at a time (inside or outside). 

• Locker rooms should not be utilized during Phase 1. Students should report to workouts in proper gear and immediately return home to shower at end of the workout. 

• Workouts should be conducted in “pods” of students with the same 5-10 students always working out together. Smaller pods can be utilized for weight training. This ensures more limited exposure if someone develops an infection. 

• There must be a minimum distance of six feet between each individual at all times. If this is not possible indoors, then the maximum number of individuals in the room must be decreased until proper social distancing can occur. 

Facilities Cleaning: 

• Adequate cleaning schedules should be created and implemented for all athletic facilities to mitigate any communicable diseases. 

• Prior to an individual or groups of individuals entering a facility, hard surfaces within that facility should be wiped down and sanitized (chairs, furniture in meeting rooms, locker rooms, weight room equipment, bathrooms, athletic training room tables, etc.). 

• Individuals should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap before touching any surfaces or participating in workouts. 

• Hand sanitizer should be plentiful and available to individuals as they transfer from place to place. 

• Weight equipment should be wiped down thoroughly before and after an individual’s use of equipment. 

• Appropriate clothing/shoes should be worn at all times in the weight room to minimize sweat from transmitting onto equipment/surfaces. 

• Any equipment such as weight benches, athletic pads, etc. having holes with exposed foam should be covered. 

• Students must be encouraged to shower and wash their workout clothing immediately upon returning to home. 

Physical Activity and Athletic Equipment: 

• There should be no shared athletic equipment (towels, clothing, shoes, or sports specific equipment) between students. 

• Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing) individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout. 

• All athletic equipment, including balls, should be cleaned after each use and prior to the next workout. 

• Individual drills requiring the use of athletic equipment are permissible, but the equipment should be cleaned prior to use by the next individual. 

• Resistance training should be emphasized as body weight, sub-maximal lifts and use of resistance bands. 

• Free weight exercises that require a spotter cannot be conducted while honoring social distancing norms. Safety measures in all forms must be strictly enforced in the weight room. 

• Examples (including by limited to): o A basketball player can shoot with a ball(s), but a team should not practice/pass a single ball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball. o A football player should not participate in team drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other teammates. Contact with other players is not allowed, and there should be no sharing of tackling dummies/donuts/sleds. o A volleyball player should not use a single ball that others touch or hit in any manner. o Softball and baseball players should not share gloves, bats, or throw a single ball that will be tossed among the team. A single player may hit in cages, throw batting practice (with netting as backstop, no catcher). Prior to another athlete using the same balls, they should be collected and cleaned individually. o Wrestlers may skill and drill without touching a teammate. o Cheerleaders may not practice/perform partner stunts or building. (Chants, jumps, dances without contact are permissible.) o Tennis players may do individual drills, wall volleys and serves. o Runners should maintain the recommended six feet of distancing between individuals 

Hydration: 

• All students shall bring their own water bottle. Water bottles must not be shared. 

• Hydration stations (water cows, water trough, water fountains, etc.) should not be utilized. 

Phase 2 

Pre-Workout/Contest Screening: 

• All coaches and students should be screened for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 prior to a workout. Screening includes a temperature check. 

• Responses to screening questions for each person should be recorded and stored so that there is a record of everyone present in case a student develops COVID-19 (see Appendix II for sample Monitoring Form). 

• Any person with positive symptoms reported should not be allowed to take part in workouts and should contact his or her primary care provider or other appropriate health-care professional. 

• Vulnerable individuals should not oversee or participate in any workouts during Phase 2. 

Limitations on Gatherings: 

• No gathering of more than 10 people at a time inside. Up to 50 individuals may gather outdoors for workouts. 

• If locker rooms or meeting rooms are used, there must be a minimum distance of six feet between each individual at all times. 

• Workouts should be conducted in “pods” of students with the same 5-10 students always working out together. Smaller pods can be utilized for weight training. This ensures more limited exposure if someone develops an infection. 

• There must be a minimum distance of six feet between each individual at all times. If this is not possible indoors, then the maximum number of individuals in the room must be decreased until proper social distancing can occur. Appropriate social distancing will need to be maintained on sidelines and benches during practices. Consider using tape or paint as a guide for students and coaches. 

Facilities Cleaning: 

• Adequate cleaning schedules should be created and implemented for all athletic facilities to mitigate any communicable diseases. 

• Prior to an individual or groups of individuals entering a facility, hard surfaces within that facility should be wiped down and sanitized (chairs, furniture in meeting rooms, locker rooms, weight room equipment, bathrooms, athletic training room tables, etc.). 

• Individuals should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap before touching any surfaces or participating in workouts. 

• Hand sanitizer should be plentiful and available to individuals as they transfer from place to place. 

• Weight equipment should be wiped down thoroughly before and after an individual’s use of equipment. 

• Appropriate clothing/shoes should be worn at all times in the weight room to minimize sweat from transmitting onto equipment/surfaces. 

• Any equipment such as weight benches, athletic pads, etc. having holes with exposed foam should be covered. 

• Students must be encouraged to shower and wash their workout clothing immediately upon returning to home. 

Physical Activity and Athletic Equipment: 

• Lower risk sports practices and competitions may resume (see Potential Infection Risk by Sport below). 

• Modified practices may begin for moderate risk sports. 

• There should be no shared athletic towels, clothing or shoes between students. 

• Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing), and individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout. 

• All athletic equipment, including balls, should be cleaned intermittently during practices and contests. 

• Hand sanitizer should be plentiful at all contests and practices. 

• Athletic equipment such as bats, batting helmets and catchers gear should be cleaned between each use. 

• Maximum lifts should be limited and power cages should be used for squats and bench presses. Spotters should stand at each end of the bar. 

Hydration: 

• All students shall bring their own water bottle. Water bottles must not be shared. 

• Hydration stations (water cows, water trough, water fountains, etc.) should not be utilized. 

Phase 3 

Pre- Workout/Contest Screening: 

• Any person who has had a fever or cold symptoms in the previous 24 hours should not be allowed to take part in workouts and should contact his or her primary care provider or other appropriate health- care professional. 

• A record should be kept of all individuals present. 

• Vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed. 

Limitations on Gatherings: 

• Gathering sizes of up to 50 individuals, indoors or outdoors. 

• When not directly participating in practices or contests, care should be taken to maintain a minimum distance of 3 to 6 feet between each individual. Consider using tape or paint as a guide for students and coaches. 

Facilities Cleaning: 

• Adequate cleaning schedules should be created and implemented for all athletic facilities to mitigate any communicable diseases. 

• Prior to an individual or groups of individuals entering a facility, hard surfaces within that facility should be wiped down and sanitized (chairs, furniture in meeting rooms, locker rooms, weight room equipment, bathrooms, athletic training room tables, etc.). 

• Individuals should wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap before touching any surfaces or participating in workouts. 

• Hand sanitizer should be plentiful and available to individuals as they transfer from place to place. 

• Weight equipment should be wiped down thoroughly before and after an individual’s use of equipment. 

• Appropriate clothing/shoes should be worn at all times in the weight room to minimize sweat from transmitting onto equipment/surfaces. 

• Any equipment such as weight benches, athletic pads, etc. having holes with exposed foam should be covered. 

• Students must be encouraged to shower and wash their workout clothing immediately upon returning to home. 

Physical Activity and Athletic Equipment: 

• Moderate risk sports practices and competitions may begin. 

• There should be no shared athletic towels, clothing or shoes between students. 

• Students should wear their own appropriate workout clothing (do not share clothing), and individual clothing/towels should be washed and cleaned after every workout. 

• Hand sanitizer should be plentiful at all contests and practices. 

• Athletic equipment such as bats, batting helmets and catchers gear should be cleaned between each use. Other equipment, such as hockey helmets/pads, wrestling ear guards, football helmets/other pads, lacrosse helmets/pads/gloves/eyewear should be worn by only one individual and not shared. 

• Maximum lifts should be limited and power cages should be used for squats and bench presses. Spotters should stand at each end of the bar. 

• Modified* practices may begin for higher risk sports: oContinue pre-practice screening as in Phases 1 and 2. Shower immediately after practices/contests. o Re-assess epidemiology data and experiences in other states and other levels of competition to determine when higher risk sports competition may resume. 

Hydration: 

• All students shall bring their own water bottle. Water bottles must not be shared. 

• Hydration stations (water cows, water trough, water fountains, etc.) may be utilized but must be cleaned after every practice/contest. 

E. Contests 

i. Potential Infection Risk by Sport (modified from United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee – Sports Medicine recommendations) 

Higher Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants. Examples: Wrestling, football, boyslacrosse, competitive cheer, dance.

Moderate Risk: Sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants OR intermittent close contact OR group sports OR sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants. Examples: Basketball, volleyball*, baseball*, softball*, soccer, water polo, gymnastics* (if equipment can’t be sufficiently cleaned between competitors), ice hockey, field hockey, tennis*, swimming relays, pole vault*, high jump*, long jump*, girls lacrosse, crew with two or more rowers in shell, 7 on 7 football *Could potentially be considered “Lower Risk” with appropriate cleaning of equipment and use of masks by participants 

Lower Risk: Sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors. Examples: Individual running events, throwing events (javelin, shot put, discus), individual swimming, golf, weightlifting, alpine skiing, sideline cheer, single sculling, cross country running (with staggered starts) 

ii. Transportation to events 

Schools must consider social distancing requirements when scheduling contests and events for the fall. Social distancing (as required by state or local health department) will need to be maintained on buses/vans. Thus, multiple buses/vans and/or parental/guardian transportation will likely be needed. 

iii. Social distancing during Contests/Events/Activities 

a. Sidelines/benches: Appropriate social distancing will need to be maintained on sidelines/bench during contests and events. Consider using tape or paint as a guide for students and coaches. 

b. Who should be allowed at events? Group people into tiersfrom essential to non-essential and decide which tiers will be allowed at an event: 

• Tier 1 (Essential): Athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff, security. • Tier 2 (Preferred): Media. • Tier 3 (Non-essential): Spectators, vendors. Only Tier 1 and 2 personnel will be allowed to attend events until state/local health departments lift restrictions on mass gatherings. 

F. Athletic Training Services 

Given the coming financial crisis at the state and local levels, the NFHS SMAC fears that athletic trainer positions will be seen asa “luxury” and those positions will be at risk during the budgeting process. It is also assumed that athletic trainers supplied to high schools by hospitals and sports medicine clinics are also at risk as many medical clinics and hospitals have suffered severe revenue loss during the pandemic. 

Athletic trainers in high schools are positioned to play a vital role as sports return following this pandemic. As health-care professionals, they can take lead roles in developing and implementing infection control policy throughout the school. Whenever needed, state associations and their SMACs should promote the importance of athletic trainers in high schools and their role in injury evaluation, treatment and risk minimization as well as being a vital component of any return-to-school and athletics plan. 

G. Return to Physical Activity 

Current pre-season conditioning and acclimatization models assume that athletes have deconditioned over the summer months. The current pandemic may result in students being deconditioned for four to five months. The NFHS is currently involved with a number of other organizations in developing consensus guidelines for fall sports practices. These guidelines will be sent to state associations immediately after they are finalized and approved by all involved organizations. 

H. Hygienic 

i. Illness reporting 

Create notification process for all event athletes, coaches, event staff, media, spectators and vendors if the organizers/medical personnel learn of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the event. 

ii. Considerations for Officials, Coaches, Other Personnel 

1. Vulnerable individuals should not participate in any practices, conditioning activities, contests or events during Phases 1 and 2. 

2. Masks may be worn, social distancing enforced and “Hygiene Basics” adhered to in all situations. 

CONTINUE TO PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE 

• Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces. 

• Avoid touching your face. 

• Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow. 

• Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible. 

• Strongly consider using face coverings while in public, and particularly when using mass transit. 

PEOPLE WHO FEEL SICK SHOULD STAY HOME 

• Do not go to work or school. 

• Contact and follow the advice of your medical provider. 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS 

1. Wide availability of hand sanitizer at contests and practices. Participants, coaches and officials should clean hands frequently. 

2. Wiping down ball and equipment frequently. 

3. No pre-game and post-game handshakes/high-fives/fist bumps. 

4. Officials and sideline volunteers should be given option to wear face coverings (may use artificial noisemaker in place of whistle).