North Dakota Association of High Schools Approves Guidelines for Fall Athletic Competitions

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The North Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors approved the “Return to Competition Guidelines” on Friday, July 24, via videoconference for the upcoming fall sports season. The board unanimously adopted the six pages of guidelines. There are also 12 pages of sport specific guidelines attached to the main document.

“It is a model for member schools and there are several requirements and as everything evolves we can see, over time, that more and more recommendations become requirements,” said the executive director of the NDHSAA, Matt Fetsch. “It wouldn’t shock me at all.”

Last week, the board voted unanimously to continue the fall season as planned, one of the few states to do so at the time. Individual school districts will decide whether they want to compete. School districts also have the flexibility to develop their own specific competition guidelines based on recommendations from the NDHSAA and in collaboration with state and local health officials.

“I think the reaction to our decision has really lived in extremes,” said Mark Rerick, athletic director of Grand Forks Public Schools. “It’s an extreme excitement that we organize sports or it’s an extreme disappointment that we get children to play sports. I tried to temper people and bring them back to the middle. Really neither is true. We certainly don’t play sports for children. Schools still have that decision. We also do not guarantee that everything will be played.

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Fetsch said current guidelines will likely change in the coming weeks due to the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.

“This will change,” Fetsch said. “The # 1 reason to release it is to serve member schools. … I think I give them an idea, in some cases maybe where to start if they haven’t already. Where others have put policies in place all summer long.

Fetsch said that at this point fans will be allowed to attend the events in accordance with national and local health guidelines. The number of spectators is likely to vary considerably depending on the geography or type of event.

“My anticipation is that question # 1 is whether we can have fans,” Fetsch said. “Like right now, yes there is, and again there may be local restrictions, but hopefully there will be this opportunity there throughout the year, but still once there are processes in place if that needs to change.

“They (the districts) will follow the state’s restart guidelines and again, this could potentially vary significantly from region to state and type of event, indoor, outdoor, etc. “

Cross country, golf, football, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball are fall sports sponsored by the NDHSAA. A consistent theme throughout the guidelines is to limit additional physical contact and maintain social distancing between competitors when possible.

For example, pre-match and post-match handshakes have been excluded. In football, team boxes can be extended on both sides to the 10-meter lines for players only to increase social distancing.

“When there is ultimately a positive case within a team, I think limiting those close contacts as much as possible will go a long way in determining whether a team can continue playing for the next few weeks,” said Fetsch.

Masks or face coverings are recommended for participants and other gaming related personnel when not involved in strenuous activity.

The board may also change traditional tournament formats and venues due to COVID-19.

“It will be a year like no other and these contingency plans are not necessarily something new,” Fetsch said. “It will be more preparation up front, but not necessarily much different when it comes to audibles that can be thrown out there due to the circumstances.”

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