Today in Montgomery, the AHSAA held a press conference to reveal and discuss its "Return to Play" Best Practice document.

Associate Executive Director, Alvin Briggs opened up the press conference by thanking the public and introducing executive Director, Steve Savarese.

"Please note, as I say often, that this information is current. But if we receive new information from the Department of Public Health as well as any state executive orders, sports could change, almost immediately. Interscholastic activities as well as our Best Practice Document are fluid," said Savarese.

"These best practices will not eliminate the risks, only mitigate them," Savarese continued.

The Executive Director stressed that the choice for students to participate in sports will be up to the parents of the students. He also stressed that sports this season would not be normal and that we should expect irregularities throughout the school year.

Assistant Director Denise Ainsworth then went over key components of the "Return to Play"  document, highlighting some of the larger points in the document.

Ainsworth said that the document is not finalized and will be updated constantly throughout the year as more information becomes available.

She stressed that it will be up to the athletes to follow the guidelines while they are away from their athletic program in order to stay healthy and mitigate the spread of the virus as much as possible.

Some highlights mentioned by Ainsworth

  • Cross Country will widen the course to at least six feet where possible.
  • Volleyball will not swap benches.
    • Prematch conferences will only have head coaches involved and will be held mid court.
    • There will be limited seating at the scorer's table, meaning the visiting scorekeeper may have to sit elsewhere in the gym.
  • Swimming and Diving will require athletes to arrive at the venue dressed to compete in order to limit activity in a tight dressing rooms.
    • There will be a reduction of people in pre-meet conferences.
  • Football will extend the players box from 10-yard line to 10-yard line to give more room on the sidelines.
    • Time outs will be extended to two minutes in order for social distancing to occur and individual water bottles to be dispersed.
    • Schools will only be able to send one athlete to center field for the captains meeting.

Practice may begin on July 27 for all fall sports but the first week must be used as an acclimation or try out period. There will be no two-a-day practices in the first week and athletes are limited to shorts and helmets.

Ainsworth stressed that communication between coaches and athletic directors will be more important that ever. Host schools must communicate with visiting schools in order to fully explain local policies and resources that will be provided by the home schools.

The AHSAA will not restrict the amount of fans that are allowed to attend the competitions, Ainsworth said instead that decision will be left up to the individual schools and communities.

Should there be fan restrictions at a school, Ainsworth said that there must be equal access to visiting fans as there is home fans.

Should a school end up having to miss a game, it will be recorded as a forfeit. However the Central Board of Control will evaluate the forfeitures at the end of the season and determine how it relates to the regular season record in order to decide who is eligible for post-season play.

The AHSAA continues its partnership with GoFan in order to have a paperless ticketing system.

Ainsworth said it will be the host's school responsibility to provide clean environments and adequate space in order to accommodate the health guidelines.

Savarese then returned to the podium to answer questioned that were submitted by text message. He stated that officials, coaches and players will be highly encouraged to wear a mask while on the sidelines.

"We will highly encourage our coaches to wear a mask," said Savarese.

Savarese praised the community of Montgomery as a mask ordinance has been in place for five weeks now and have seen their COVID-19 cases drop significantly.

Finally Savarese once again reiterated that this plan is fluid and may change at any time based on new information. He stated that the reason for not delaying the season was in order to get as many weeks of competition in as possible in the event the pandemic gets worse.

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