Governor's Youth Sports Update; NJSIAA On HS Sports Return

On Monday another wave of news came through on the status of youth, recreational, and high school sports in New Jersey.

Governor Murphy released an update on when low to high risk sports will return to practice and competition this summer. He also made it clear at the end of his presentation that the NJSIAA controls the decisions and guidelines for high school athletics as long as they don't contradict safety restrictions, such as limits on gatherings. 

Soon after the briefing concluded, the NJSIAA reiterated that while these announcements are a positive step for all sports high school athletics are a different realm from summer youth competition. NJSIAA member schools should expect more guidelines this week, by June 19th, as mentioned on their previously released statement on June 12th

Below the Governor's statement you can also read the Department of Health's statement which dives into a few more details on what organizations can do to help improve the safety of the athletes and staff at an event or practice. 

You can read all of these June 15th announcements below. 

NJSIAA Statement on Youth Sports Update

Released Monday 6/15/2020

"The governor's announcement today regarding youth and recreation sports is another positive step in our collective effort to return to play. It's important to note however, that while these particular guidelines are instructive, they don't directly apply to high school athletics. Any scholastic sports program is part of the overall curriculum, and so must be appropriately in sync with all other facets of the school. High school athletics cannot function independently from schools -- which, of course, are currently focused on the safe return of more 1.3 million students, including 283,000 high school student-athletes. In short, scholastic sports present far more pressing and complex considerations than do youth and recreation-level programs.

As previously announced, we anticipate having guidelines for high school sports by June 19, with summer workouts starting on or around July 13. NJSIAA strongly believes that with summer workouts starting in July, student athletes will have more than enough time to prepare for the fall season."

Information From Governor Murphy's Return to Sports Segment on Monday

From the Governor's COVID-19 briefing, Monday, 6/15/2020.

The Department of Health has finalized guidance for organized sports to resume on Monday, June 22nd. Only outdoor sports may resume at this time. The department is categorizing sports as low, medium or high risk based on guidance from the NFHS.

Low risk sports such as golf and tennis may resume competition starting June 22nd.

Medium risk sports such as baseball, softball, soccer, and outdoor basketball will be limited to non-contact drills and practices only, but barring a significant uptick in COVID-19 as we enter State 2 we anticipate allowing for the resumption of competition on July 6th. 

For high risk sports such as football, non-contact drills and practices only may resume June 22nd. And we hope to allow full practices and competitions to resume starting on July 20th.

Across the board all sports will have to abide by a number of health and safety protocols including screenings for athletes, coaches, and staff, limited equipment sharing, and strong requirements for disinfecting and sanitizing equipment. 

Activities under the oversight of the NJSIAA or NCAA must abide by those associations' rules. 

However all competitions or tournaments must abide by our limit on outdoor gatherings, which is currently 100 people but is expected to be at 250 by a week from today and 500 people by July 3rd. 

Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli

"As the Governor reviewed, the department is releasing standards for sports activities today. These standards will guide organizations that oversee sporting activities, to protect health and safety of players, staff, and their families as operations resume. 

In addition to what the Governor outlined, I want to share some additional information. As part of safety measures organizers must create a program preparation plan that outlines policies for resumption of activities. As part of that plan program leaders should identify adult staff members or volunteers to help remind coaches, players, and attendees about social or physical distancing measures. The use of signs, tape, and physical barriers can be used to assist with guiding social distancing requirements. 

Staff, parents, and visitors are required to wear a cloth face covering at practices and games. Athletes are encouraged to wear masks during downtime but should not wear a mask during periods of physical activity. 

Any equipment sharing must be limited. All shared objects must be cleaned and sanitized at the end of each practice, game, and between uses.

Athletes are encouraged to bring their own water bottles and equipment to practice. 

Athletes and staff must be screened through a temperature check and a health questionnaire prior to practices and games. If an individual has symptoms, they obviously cannot participate in activities. 

Program leaders are required to divide larger teams to smaller groups and stagger practices at different times or across different days. 

Any non-essential visitors, spectators, staff, volunteers, vendors, and other attendees should be limited.

Each facility that will be used for practices should post signage in highly visible locations with reminders regarding social distancing protocols, face covering requirements, and good hygiene practices. 

Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or other sanitizing materials should be readily available at entrances, exits, benches, dugouts, and any other area prone to gathering or high traffic. 

There should also be routine disinfecting and sanitizing at the facility, particularly of high touch areas. 

Physical activity is vital for our overall health. These measures will help to keep participants safe while engaging in their favorite outdoor sports."

Watch Monday's briefing below.