Dr. Karissa Niehoff, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), hosted a Zoom call to discuss factors going into decision making in regards to the reemergence of high school athletics across the nation.
An anchor point for the presentation was a map graphic illustrating current situations, by state, regarding the status of fall sports in each state, including Washington DC. 14 states were reported to have no modifications to their sports seasons to date, 37 states that change their seasons in any capacity, and 17 out of those 37 states that will not have any football this fall.
Dr. Niehoff mentioned multiple possibilities of changes that are not yet close to being finalized, but that certain parts of the nation could see imposed moving forward.
These implementations ranged from virtual classes counting towards overall attendance needed to participate in sports, to getting cameras out to schools to film and broadcast these games and competitions in places where fans are prohibited.
Even outlier scenarios considered a possibility where football could be reduced from 11 on 11 play to seven on seven and the potential to move a sport like volleyball from an enclosed area, outside to open air.
But Niehoff did specifically identify those two scenarios as far outliers.
Some people in states not having sports restart as early as this fall, are actually moving to other states to try and get playing time at other high schools that are opening more fully. Dr. Niehoff cautioned against this measure though, saying, “Going by the numbers, most of these student athletes will not go on to play in college and we have to continue being realistic ... we hope that people take everything into consideration before they just move to another area.”
The NFHS is also currently in the middle of a six-month aerosol study, aimed at measuring how things like social distancing and masks can actually be effective in a classroom setting like performance art such as band, orchestra and chorus.
This is to get an idea of how students being in close quarters will be affected during this period of reopening, and help officials get a sense of how sports can be reintroduced safely.
There were five key points that the study has shown so far after the second collection of preliminary data, and those are to have everyone wear masks, distance properly in at least a six feet by six feet square, 30-minute rehearsal times, ample airflow, and proper hygiene.
So it seems that this results in this study so far are supporting the main components that the Center for Disease Control has recommended everyone do; wear a mask, stay socially distant when possible, wash your hands thoroughly, do not stay in environments of high exposure for extended periods of time.
As with most officials across the state though, Dr. Niehoff reiterated that the decisions regarding sports will continue to monitor the education side of things and take that into account first.
More meetings will come this week from NYSPHSAA and other officials to further discussions about sports schedules returning, but it looks like the lower-risk competitions will indeed come back first.