Sports teams waiting for phase two to begin - and a guaranteed season


Sally Marquez, the New Mexico Activities Association executive director, said on Monday (June 29) in an email to the Taos News that summer workouts will be delayed until Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham "moves to phase two" when it comes to reopening the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday (June 25), Lujan Grisham said in a video update to New Mexicans that phase two would be delayed due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.

The disease transmission rate is at 1.12, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, which is above the 1.05 threshold that the state had met previously. The seven-day transmission rate has been on the rise since the beginning of June, too, according to the New Mexican.

The decision by Lujan Grisham -- and to which Marquez and the NMAA followed suit -- came as states bordering New Mexico - Arizona and Texas - have seen a dramatic rise in cases.

On Sunday (June 28), Arizona recorded its highest numbers of cases in one day to date. The rise has also coincided with more New Mexicans out and about, as the governor in early June allowed the reopening of salons and restaurants at half capacity.

Summer workouts were allowed to begin on June 15 and teams across the state, including some in Taos County, have been practicing since then. Some haven't.

In fact, the Taos Tigers football team has been practicing since day one of the reopening for summer workouts. Coaches on the football team have been abiding by guidelines set forth by the NMAA, which includes wearing facial coverings throughout practice and screening, daily, for symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

Taos football coach Art Abreu Jr. said that he understands why phase two might be delayed -- for which there wasn't a set date yet -- because he knows that Marquez is following suit with the governor's orders.

Abreu, however, also understands that health comes first -- and he's more concerned about the long-term well-being of his wife, infant son and players and coaches. So if that means that practice might have to come to a halt if cases continue to trend upward, he has made his peace with that.

"What scares me is getting my son sick," Abreu said. "It's fun to think about sports and it is fun to think about a season, but let's be realistic here - there is no event more important than my son's and wife's life right now. So if elected officials say it's too hard to continue with a football season, I'm going to trust that fact."

But if fall sports do happen to become a reality -- and a delay in phase two is still in place for a couple weeks -- Abreu said that he would be concerned for his players' health if they can't get into the weight room.

Currently, in phase one, athletes aren't allowed to be in a weight room. Abreu said that lifting weights is key to getting in football shape -- and that if athletes don't participate in weight lifting to expect to see more "tendon issues."

"We are coming close to that point of: Is it even safe for kids to play football if they aren't in the weight room?" he said.

Anita Rodriguez, head coach of the Taos volleyball team, said that her team has also been practicing since workouts were allowed to resume, and that the team and coaches have been adhering to the phase one guidelines given by the NMAA.

"The most important part is keeping everyone safe," Rodriguez said.

She and the team are still holding out hope for a season -- even though at this time it is unclear how the fall sports season might transpire.

"We are hopeful," Rodriguez said. "In some capacity we are hoping there is a season. I don't know what it will look like. … But we plan on having some type of season."

Rodriguez isn't as concerned with when phase two might get underway, but is happy to just be practicing in the first place. She said it is a start toward getting the fall season started.

But there is at least one team that hasn't utilized summer workouts at all so far since practices were allowed to resume. The Taos boys soccer team, coached by Michael Hensley, have yet to take the pitch for practice, and likely won't until a fall season is guaranteed.

Hensley said the decision not to practice came down to concern for those in the community.

"We were very concerned about members in our community and made a decision based on what we thought was in their best interest," Hensley said. "We do not wish to bring any harm to our community. It is really hard to refrain [from practicing] but I think it was in the best interest for all to do so."

Phase two, Marquez said, mostly contains changes to player-to-coach ratios. Currently, there can be one coach to every five players in a pod, or workout group. Five pods total are allowed at practices.

There is no set date for phase two to start, according to Marquez.

And no fall season guaranteed.


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