If there is high school sports this fall, the season is set to begin on September 14.
The MIAA Board of Directors unanimously approved a recommendation put forward by the associations COVID-19 Task Force to push back the Massachusetts high school sports fall season to September 14 on Tuesday during a virtual meeting.
Although the MIAA has set a date for when formal practices can begin, which sports can be played, if any at all, this fall will be decided by the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and Governor Charlie Bakers office.
DESE commissioner Jeff Riley said during Tuesdays meeting that the department plans on releasing updated guidelines in early August. The MIAA Board of Directors unanimously approved a recommendation during Tuesdays meeting that states the association will comply with those forthcoming guidelines.
If we can do sports, we would certainly like to do it, but only if it can be done in a safe way, said Riley. That may mean that we have to modify sports. Im not really sure. We really have to make some decisions on what athletics could look like.
We recognize sports are something that sometimes start before the school year starts and people are anxious for the information. But we really just want to make sure we do a thorough process, take our time and use the best medical information available to make sure if we do bring sports back its in a safe manner and what those modifications would look like.
If Massachusetts choses to move forward with the current youth sport guidelines released on July 6, soccer, football, and competitive cheer would be unable to compete, as they fall into the high-risk category, but the guidelines are subject to change.
Following the approval of the recommendation pushing back the start of the fall season, the subcommittees third and final recommendation was that the BOD meet again three business days after the EEA and DESE publish their guidelines for K-12 fall and youth sports to discuss the fall season and consider additional recommendations from the COVID-19 Task Force.
We will meet as quickly as possible to get together (following the release of DESE and EEA guidelines) and in front of the board to give everyone a better idea for fall sports, said task force co-chair Thom Holdgate.
Moving ahead, the Task Force has more work to do.
The subcommittee will continue to review general COVID-19 health and safety guidelines developed by the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee once it is complete and will make a recommendation regarding the fall sports season and beyond when the joint guidelines from EEA and DESE are released. The subcommittee will also work toward a recommendation for how educational athletics can be leveraged as a social/emotional learning support should schools be in a remote learning model for the 2020-2021 school year.
Riley noted that DESE has asked school districts in the state to choose one of three plans moving forward into the new school year as it relates to education; in-person learning, remote learning or a hybrid model. Riley noted that the deadline for schools to make these decisions is Aug. 10th, four days before the MIAAs plan to start the fall sports season.
Districts having an education plan in place before fall sports starts was important to districts and the Task Force during the process of coming up with the proposed Aug. 14 start date.
Thom Holdgate, who serves as co-chair on the MIAAs COVID-19 Task Force, said that the subcommittee has heavily taken into consideration what other states in the northeast are doing with their protocols as it relates to return to play recommendations.
High school games in New Jersey can begin October 1 for a majority of sports, with the football regular season starting Oct. 2, while New York has set its start date for teams to begin practicing to Sept. 21.
While going through the process of getting feedback from administrators the last few weeks, the Task Force sent out a survey to superintendents, principals, athletic directors, coaches, and athletic trainers and received over 1,000 responses. All respondents agreed that health and safety of student-athletes and staff is of the the highest priority for any return to play and that mental health of student-athletes is also a priority in addition to returning to school.
The insight that were gathering and still culling through is really helpful to us as we continue, said MIAA associate executive director Sherry Bryant, who is also on the task force.