The Missouri State High School Activities Association has released an eight-page document filled with guidelines for the resumption of sports this fall. As of now, MSHSAA plans to go ahead with all activities on schedule. The first games are scheduled for the week of August 24. (Republic’s first games are set for August 28.)
You can read the full document on MSHSAA’s website. The guidelines are not mandatory, and local districts will have flexibility in implementing them, but here are ten key takeaways from the document.
1. Recognition of Risk
MSHSAA recognizes that resumption of sports does not come without risk of illness: “The risk of coronavirus transmission will still be present to some degree as school activities begin in August and possibly through the 2020–2021 school year. Students and their families, along with school personnel must recognize these risks and implement best practices to reasonably mitigate these risks. Participation in school activities is voluntary and every individual will need to evaluate the risk versus the benefits of activity participation.”
2. No School, No Sports
“If schools statewide are closed to in-person learning due to the corona virus pandemic, MSHSAA will be unable to allow for either a regular season or a post-season series in MSHSAA sports and activities.”
3. No In-person Classes, No Sports
If a school district is offering only virtual classes, it will not be allowed to participate in sports: “Sports and activities are irrevocably and appropriately intertwined with education provided in the school building. The MSHSAA Constitution defines a school, in part, as being organized to deliver instruction to students who report to a common location. If conditions are such in your local area that you are unable to safely bring students to a common location for instruction, bringing students together for practice and competitions is inappropriate.”
4. Local Conditions Matter
“If a majority of schools are open for in-person learning, efforts will be made to administer a regular season and postseason for those schools/students who are permitted to do so based on the guidelines of the local and state health departments. In this scenario, MSHSAA does not intend to revoke the participation opportunities for students who are able to take part.” In other words, if one part of the state must shut down its schools, MSHSAA will not end competition everywhere.
5. Which Sports? All or None.
If one sport is allowed, all are allowed. If one is cancelled, all are cancelled. MSHSAA says as of now, it doesn’t intend to “pick and choose which sports/activities would be permitted to continue to have a season while at the same time restricting other sports/activities from continuing due to public health concerns.” Its guidelines to leave the door open to continued evaluation of that stance. “Throughout the year, the Board will monitor and evaluate circumstances and consult with public health officials to make decisions in the best interest of all students.”
6. Stop and Go
The guidelines recognize that different areas will live under different restrictions, and conditions may change throughout the season. Some schools may have to halt play for a while in the middle of the season, and MSHSAA leaves that possibility open.
7. Screening & Masks (Mostly) Required
Coaches and students are required to be screened before every practice or game, and anyone who shows signed of infection will be required to stay away until 1) providing a negative test outcome or 2) after a 14-day quarantine period. “Masks or face coverings are REQUIRED for participants, coaches/directors and officials/adjudicators any time they are not doing strenuous physical activity. Wearing masks before activities and immediately following activities is REQUIRED, especially prior to screening.”
8. Reporting Requirements
MSHSAA lays out a detailed process for dealing with positive COVID-19 test results, who should be quarantined, and how to handle decisions about subsequent testing and future practices and games. Schools are expected to follow up with all close contacts of anyone who’s tested positive, and teammates in close contact with positive cases will be expected to sit out for 14 days.
9. No Crowded Buses
Schools will need to get creative with transportation. “Social distancing (as required by state or local health department) will need to be maintained on buses/vans.”
10. Limited Crowd Sizes
Local rules will determine crowd sizes, which will be severely limited in most cases. MSHSAA encourage live streaming of games and lays out guidelines for who should be allowed into games in the event of such limits on spectators.