AHSAA offers athletics amid COVID-19

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On the Mark
By D. Mark Mitchell

Alabama High School Athletic Association Exucutive Director Steve Savares made a decision in July that shaped high school athletics in the state.

Savarese was scheduled to lead off the “High School Media Days presented by the Orthopedic Clinic” on FOX Sports 910-1310 and WOTM TV. Savarese always leads off our media day and agreed to again earlier in the year. Day one of high school media days was one day ahead of a press conference scheduled by the AHSAA to allow Savarese to announce the decison to play, delay or cancel fall sports. Georgia already announced they would delay the start of fall sports for two weeks, then reevaluate.

Savaeres wasted no time. After thanking everyone involved in the high school media days, he told numerous media outlets gathered to cover the two-day event (print, social media and TV ) “Tomorrow, I will release the AHSAA decision. . . to play, not delay!”

This was a major statement that gave us all hope for the fall athletic season. Savarese, the AHSAA Central Board of Control, Alabama Department of Health, the medical advisory committee and Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey all agreed the decision to play high school sports was the right decision. Savarese told everyone: learn to live with COVID, be flexible and open to new things if it helps make the season possible.

As August approached, AHSAA member schools implemented all the guidelines sent out by the AHSAA. Everyone involved needed to do their part to ensure sports would continue to play. The decision was not liked by all; a few schools chose to not play fall sports and were allowed to do so. Contracts would be terminated with no forfeit cost by that school. As the season progressed, some teams forfeited games due to some positive cases but mostly because of contact tracing.

As I write this column, all AHSAA fall sports completed the season and held championship events at neutral sites as planned.

Winter sports are underway; schools are wrestling and playing basketball. These sports are a bit different than fall sports because they are held  inside, and athletes’ bodily fluids could be exchanged by bumping each other. Nonetheless schools are participating.

BASKETBALL ATTENDANCE 20%

The AHSAA, after request from ALDPH Health Director Dr. Scott Harris, issued a memorandum to all superintendents, principals, athletic directors and head basketball coaches last week. The memorandum called for schools to reduce attendance to 20% capacity, dropping from 25%.

Coach Savarese addressed several items in the letter, including: participants playing sports with  hand-to-hand contact should sanitize their hands each time they enter or leave the court; host schools should make announcements throughout the night, asking spectators to maintain 6-foot distance between those not in their households, encourage players, their families and coaches to refrain from organizing non-sport related social activities  that increase the risk of transmission; spectators must keep a mask on inside the gym and outside until leaving the venue completely; if a player or official is diagnosed within two days after an event, the opposite team and officials should be contacted. The department asked those in charge of the event to delay if someone is not following these guidelines.

Hopefully, as the vaccine becomes available, COVID-19 will not be on most people’s minds. Maybe things can go back to somewhat as normal as possible.

PERSONAL

I want to wish all my readers a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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