Prep Sports

NMAA's Marquez: Everyone wear a mask, no spotters in gyms, limit volunteers

By JP Murrieta
NMAA
Posted 6/23/20

Each week, New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions regarding the guidelines in place for the return of summer workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following is the interview from June 15.

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Prep Sports

NMAA's Marquez: Everyone wear a mask, no spotters in gyms, limit volunteers

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Each week, New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions regarding the guidelines in place for the return of summer workouts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following is the interview from June 15.

Some programs are beginning summer workouts, others are still waiting to begin. We have a lot of questions to get to. First, there was a change to the guidelines when it comes to weight rooms. What are the new guidelines?

Everything is ever-changing. We just have to keep up with the governor's office and what is going on and where we can open up so on and so forth. Today is the first day that student-athletes are allowed to workout with the coaches if they want to. Student-athletes have a choice and the schools have a choice on what date they want to start. The guidelines that have changed regarding the weight room is student-athletes now are able to get into the weight room, 50 percent capacity with social distancing, no heavy lifting, no spotters - just getting into the weight room and doing a lot of reps.

What are the suggested guidelines for sanitation and cleaning of equipment such as volleyballs? And who will provide those cleaning supplies?

Cleaning supplies will be provided by the school along with thermometers and personal protective equipment equipment. Schools may not be ready to start today because we need to make sure that we have all of these supplies. Saying that, for example, a volleyball - it is not good to wipe a volleyball with a 100 percent alcohol wipes. They need to be maybe 75 percent alcohol and 25 percent water and the Clorox and Lysol wipes are virtually 75 percent-25 percent alcohol and water. So a coach really needs to make sure that it's not 100 percent alcohol.

What are those guidelines? I can send to the athletic directors what the National Federation is saying what to clean with, but again it will ultimately be up to the school to make those determinations how they are going to sanitize their equipment.

Are parents allowed to watch or be present at these workouts? What about volunteer coaches? What about media members? Are they allowed at workouts?

At this point, we need to really minimize volunteers that are not approved through the school district. We need to not have parents out there and we need to make sure [when] we are in the 5 to 1 pods [workout groups], there is nobody else around.

As far as media, that is kind of a local decision. I would say for interviews -- interview before practice or after practice and not let the media walk around because again we want to minimize who is in that controlled environment. However, if the media wants to take pictures from afar, then leave, that is fine. Again, just work with your local media to make sure that you are satisfying their needs and keeping things safe.

As far as parents, at this time, I know parents like to watch practice and I think this is going to be the hardest thing, but this environment is totally controlled - 5 to 1, we know who is around and so it's best for the parents not to be around. Also, volunteer coaches that are approved is fine, but to have an ex-athlete out watching a pod, not going through the proper procedures, is not a good practice.

Do coaches have to wear masks?

The simple answer is yes. Everybody needs to wear a mask, even the student-athletes coming from their cars to the workout except for when you are exercising. Right now, that is the governor's orders that in public everyone has a mask except to exercise.

Does every pod need a coach? Can a coach work with multiple pods in a day?

That's the big question - pods - can coaches switch pods? Can they stay in one pod? What's the situation? The idea of pods is to minimize who a student-athlete is in contact with. We don't need a student-athlete being in contact with 15-20 different people. It should be 5 to 1, at this point, so that's the idea of the pod.

Now on a single day with coaches, they should stay in the same pod with the five kids. Coaches should not be rotating pods whatsoever. However, if you have a group from 9 in the morning to 10 and another group is coming in from 10:30 to 11:30, that coach can work with another pod. But during that one- to two-hour practice, that coach needs to stay with the same group.

Does the same coach have to be with the same pod every day?

I don't want to micromanage these coaches, but the idea is to minimize who you are in contact with. Now if a coach switches pods every single day and those athletes are coming to practice every single day, now you have a student-athlete with five different coaches. So, instead of five people he is exposed to, now you have exposed them to 10 people. So that is just not a very good idea. However, every other week you might want to switch a coach or every two weeks, but again I don't want to micromanage. The idea is to minimize who that student-athlete is in contact with.

Is there a time limit for each pod?

There is not. We have our out-of-season coaching rules that say seven and a half hours and everybody has asked do we have to be there seven and a half hours Monday to Friday? No, that is up to the school district to make a decision on how long practice is, when is practice and going back to pods.

Another thing on the pods is we have multisport athletes. They can be in one pod for football in the morning and they can be in a different pod for basketball in the afternoon or however it is. So, those multisport athletes are going to be exposed to a little bit more than a one-sport athlete, but we don't want them to stop playing all sports so they can be in different pods going from one sport to another.

Can teams use the locker rooms?

That answer is a quick no. Locker rooms are not to be used whatsoever. Training rooms can be used if the athletic trainer is in there - other than that locker rooms are off-limits.

If a district isn't starting summer workouts until later, can a coach set up virtual workouts for the kids?

That is yes. We have been saying since March: Work with your kids virtually, talk to your kids virtually, stay in contact with your kids virtually. Even if they come back today on the field, the coach can still do a virtual workout tomorrow with them. They don't have to go every single day in person. I think it would be wise to get them in there and see them face-to-face and also continue virtual. That's up to the coaches - again I don't want to micromanage, but virtual is fine.

The majority of our conversations have been about high school athletics and activities. Is there going to be any information released on middle school sports this summer?

I don't think we have really said high school and middle school. I know we talk about the high school getting the eighth through 12th graders going. That right now is our focus, but if the middle schools decide they too want to work out, they are under the exact same guidelines as the high schools.

Can football or any other sport programs utilize their athletic trainer or managers?

I would say athletic trainers yes. Managers, you need to be really careful in regards to managers. If it's a student-athlete or a student that is a manager, are they going to be a part of the five in the pod? Are you going to have that student-manager go from pod to pod to pod and walk around? That is not a good idea because you are exposing that student-manager to not five kids, but to a lot of kids. So, if you are going to utilize a student-manager or have kids around that are not participating, I would say that is probably not a good idea. All kids should be in a pod or not be with the coaches.

If player travels out of state, what are guidelines for quarantining that individual and can a coach require that the player quarantine?

Well, right now, the governor's orders are if you cross the state lines you should quarantine and it is recommended that you quarantine for 14 days, if you are driving. If you fly, and it's not work-related, and come back, it is required that you quarantine for 14 days per the governor's orders. That is that right now.

What's it going to be in August? I don't know. What's going to be next week? I don't know. Currently those are the guidelines, so yes a coach should, if the kid is flying, mandate that they quarantine for 14 days. If they are driving, it is recommended but it is up to the coach and the athletic director to make a determination and a decision.

Has there been any thoughts as to playing fall sports like football in the spring?

No, not at this time. Has there been thoughts? Yes, there has been thoughts. There has been a lot of thoughts going on, but right now, as I have told the fall coaches last week, we are looking to start in August when school is in session. We are staying positive that we are going to have sports and we will make those determinations to the season, but we will not be flip-flopping fall and spring sports.

A lot of people say can you do spring sports now and flip-flop football. I am not going to put those spring sports in any jeopardy whatsoever to not have a season. If there is any goal, besides having all sports, it is to make sure that I am taking care of those spring sport athletes. What happened to them last year was gut-wrenching.

Coaches need to be tested before they begin summer workouts. Will coaches be retested for COVID-19 during the season?

At this point no. They will start with a negative COVID-19 test, however. A lot of people don't realize every day, just as the students are being monitored by temperature, the coaches are going through that same process. So, once the coaches have done their COVID-19 tests, if they are above 100.3, the same thing as the student-athletes, they have to go to the doctor. They may have to retest, but at this point they just need that one Band-Aided test.

What if a player tests positive for COVID-19? What procedure should the coach follow and what is the process following that? Or if any of the answers on the monitoring form are marked yes - for example, a sore throat - should the player be sent home?

So, if any of those answers are yes, the players should be sent home right away. That player needs to go to the doctor and get checked out and see if they can return. The doctor may send them to get a COVID-19 test - that is up to the pediatrician and doctors.

Now, if a student does test positive for COVID-19, the Department of Health will immediately contact the school and the coach and give them guidelines as to what to do next. If anyone has been around that student, they need to be tested. There will be sanitation that needs to take place, but again, the Department of Health will lead from then on.

What is the timeline for size of pods to change from a 5:1 ratio to a larger ratio?

I think it is going to change even here soon. We will be at 10:1, 15:1, 25:1, 50:1 by the time school starts, but we will change as the governor changes or we see that it is loosening up we will change the pod sizes immediately.

One of the coaches asked for football and soccer if we could get to 11:1. [The ratio] 11:1 is different from 10:1 as far as what the medical people are saying, but as far as the coaches are saying, it would really help getting to 11:1 so we can start working on some different things. But we will continue to update all of those especially the pod sizes.

Listen to the weekly interview at nmact.org/news/press-releases/.

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