As of Tuesday, high school sports in the Beehive State are a go for the upcoming season.
This means girls soccer will begin playing games next week, with the first football games involving teams from Cache Valley taking place on Aug. 14. Cross country, volleyball, girls tennis and boys golf will also be in action this fall.
The Utah High School Activities Association Board of Trustees met on Tuesday to discuss statewide plans for fall sports. The UHSAA released a brief statement.
“The Association’s governing board affirmed plans to proceed with fall sports as scheduled, with a continued focus on following established best practices from national and local governing/advisory organizations. The BOT also encouraged member schools to regularly communicate with local health officials regarding policy and best practices for their school community.”
The UHSAA also set up sport-by-sport best practices for all sanctioned fall sports in order to be able to return to action. There are six general guidelines that are listed for every sport and then specific ones for each.
General guidelines are: 1) No shaking hands before/after game. 2) Players/coaches on bench/sideline are highly recommended to wear masks. 3) Fans are encouraged to wear masks when social distancing isn’t feasible. 4) Understand and practice school/district and local health protocols for COVID-19 prevention and tracking. 5) Place signage in facilities to inform participants/spectators on protocol and best practices. 6) Any players, coaches or spectators who are sick shall not be engaged in practices and or contests.
As far as the specific guidelines for each sport, there is some overlap. Those include: Use multiple buses to allow social distancing, check the temperatures of all participants before leaving for road games and, at the venue, crowd size will be determined by current state and county health departments, each athlete will bring their own water bottle and have it in a designated area and host sites are in charge of sterilizing everything.
Some of the specific guidelines for football included a limit of 50 players — this can be exceeded if organizational oversight can be provided that guidelines are followed; all participants — coaches, athletes and officials — will stand 6-feet apart on the sidelines, with team boxes extending to the 10-yard line and wearing masks while not in the game; hand sanitizer at the 50-yard line so players can sanitize going into the game and coming out; and the coin flip before the game will be one coach and one player from each team, and a wave of sportsmanship after the game.
For girls soccer, a limit of 25 players; players, coaches and officials will stand 6-feet apart on the sidelines; and hand sanitizer will be on each sideline at midfield for players going on and being substituted out to use.
For cross country, no hugging, shaking hands or fist bumps; meets should consider using staggered, wave or interval starts; consider widening the course to at least six feet at its narrowest point; consider using finish corrals to avoid congestion; and have hand sanitizer at all meets and practices.
For boys golf, only essential personnel are permitted on the course; coaches are encouraged to wear a mask; no handshakes; do not touch other players, equipment or golf balls; players should not touch the flagstick, bunker rakes or ball cleaning devises on the course; and no gathering points for registration or awards ceremony.
For girls tennis, athletes are permitted to wear gloves; teams are discouraged from bringing players who are not likely to compete; and a new canister of balls will be used for each match.
For volleyball, no pre-game and post-game handshakes, high fives or fist bumps; nets, standards, official stands and balls should cleaned and sanitized after set up and before the contest; personnel on bench to observe social distancing of 3 to 6 feet; only the athletes will touch the balls; players should use hand sanitizer before entering or exiting the court; no hand touching during substitutions; electronic whistles are preferred; suspend teams switching benches between sets unless there is a clear disadvantage; coaches, scorers table personnel, officials and players on the bench are encouraged to wear face coverings; and players can wear face coverings and gloves.
There were also some considerations for parents, which included making sure your child and immediate household members are free from illness before participating in practice and competition — if there is doubt, then stay home; and label personal items and disinfect equipment after each game or practice.