MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama High School Athletic Association provided more details for the return of fall sporting events, including football, amid the pandemic.
There was a lot of information shared during Thursday’s Press Conference with the AHSAA regarding the return of fall sports, but the biggest takeaway?
“Right now, we’re planning on having a full schedule,” said executive director Steve Savarese.
On Wednesday, AHSAA released an approved plan for the of fall sports but cautioned Thursday that these are not normal times. The guide is not a final document and it is expected to change as new information and data on the COVID-19 pandemic comes out.
The organization said there are rule modifications for fall athletics including, for example, cross county, volleyball, swimming/diving, and football.
- For those taking part in cross country, the course is to be widened to six feet where feasible and those on the sidelines will need to wear masks.
- In volleyball meets, there will no longer be bench switching and meetings will no longer be held at the center. Organizers will also limit the number of people at the official’s table.
- For those participating in swimming and diving events, they will need to arrive at the meet in their swim attire. There will also be a limited number of people allowed to be in attendance.
- In football, the players box will be extended, and timeouts will be increased to two minutes.
The full list of guidelines is available HERE.
While AHSAA has provided guidelines for best practice when returning to play, the board is giving schools the freedom to make decisions that are best for its campus.
This means everything from game day protocol, scheduling, fan attendance monitoring, even small details such as concession stands and whether the cheerleaders and band can participate will all be at the discretion of the school.
"Our board has provided schools flexibility to play, or to not play without penalty, and to allow school officials to use their judgement based on the latest health information available for their specific region of the state," said Savarese.
The AHSAA cautioned there is no way to eliminate all risks, but the guidelines should help to mitigate them.
“As we all realize, there’s not a one size fits all solution to this health conundrum,” said Savarese. “We understand schools might have to stop and start; delay and play at a later date; schedule and reschedule,” he said. “But schools will have the autonomy of when to allow their teams to participate.”
Schools have an option to begin athletics on July 27 with an acclimation week that does not include two-a-days. Schools not choosing the early start can start later with the first contest on Aug. 20.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep people safe and healthy. To do that, Savarese says it is up to everyone to do their part and follow the guidelines.
“Please, please all of you. practice the guidelines put forth by our medical advisors. Practice the guidelines put forth by our governor so our kids can have a future,” he said. “If we’ll all do what’s asked of us, then we will have an opportunity to return to a sense of normalcy.”
AHSAA said communication is needed now more than ever and that school systems need to coordinate before athletic events about things including what the current host city’s policies are regarding COVID-19.
AHSAA is also encouraging athletes, coaches, and staff to continue following these procedures even when they’re not practicing limiting the risk of spreading the coronavirus.