Sisolak loosens restrictions but high school sports still on hold

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday afternoon that minimal contact sports would be allowed to resume competition Saturday at the youth and adult levels.

However, Sisolak deferred any resumption of play at the high school level to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

Minimal contact sports – baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, flag football, golf, tennis, running, no-contact cheer, swimming and diving – are allowed to resume practices, games and competitions if proper social distancing requirements can be met.

“We are trusting and counting on parents, players and officials to make this program a success. Coaches are role models — wear a mask on the sidelines,” Sisolak said.

Tournaments can resume Oct. 24, but tournament officials must have a safety plan approved by the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.

Full contact sports – or high-risk sports – such as football, wrestling, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, water polo and group cheer are still prohibited under the governor’s directive.

All safety measures remain in place for sports competition and adult coaches, managers and referees are “required to take a COVID-19 test prior to the start of the season or resumption of any athletic activity.”

The reprieve on recreational sports comes three days after Sisolak loosened restrictions on public and private gatherings across the state.

In response to the governor’s directive, the NIAA posted a press release on its website.

“Members of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents, the NIAA’s Board of Control and office staff will continue to engage in dialog related to the return to play for our sanctioned sports,” said the statement. “It may be necessary additionally for the NIAA office staff to communicate with league presidents, school principals, administrators and sport commissioners before making any decisions related to potentially amending our current start date of Jan. 2. With all due respect, the NIAA office staff, Board of Control members and school district superintendents do not intend to react or comment further at this time on the governor’s news conference.”

The press release also stated that the NIAA doesn’t intend on making any changes to its master schedule for this school year “without subsequent action of the NIAA’s Legislative Commission (the superintendents) and/or Board of Control voting members to amend start dates, the current schedule will remain in place.”

Protestors rally to resume high school sports in Nevada

Those in favor of playing high school sports in the midst of a global pandemic continued to make their voices heard on Saturday afternoon in downtown Carson City.

Around 125 to 150 student-athletes, kids, parents and coaches stood at the intersection in front of the Nevada State Capitol protesting for the resumption of athletics in Northern Nevada.

As of Thursday, eight states across the country – including Nevada – had no fall competitions scheduled, per the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The discussions since the initial decision to call off fall sports in Nevada in late July have only continued to become more nuanced.

WHERE TO TURN NEXT

Much of the pushback to the postponement of the fall sports calendar has come due to a lack of transparency as to where the decision ultimately stemmed from.

On Sept. 9, around 50 athletes and parents protested outside of the Washoe County School District to resume athletics.

Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill told those outside, the decision came from the NIAA, per the reporting of Reno Gazette Journal.

During last week’s NIAA meeting, the NIAA directed the outcries toward Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“We’ve asked the superintendents, the school boards, the principals, the NIAA and finally we got the answer last week that it really comes down to the Governor. The Governor needs to be more clear with his directives,” said Damonte Ranch assistant varsity football coach Joe Lawrence Saturday in downtown Carson.

However, the NIAA officially approved the postponement of high school sports until Jan. 2 during its quarterly board meeting last week.

Washoe County as of Saturday had the highest ever number of confirmed active COVID-19 cases (1,418).

As of Sunday, the Quad Counties region had 122 active cases with 58 of those being in Carson City and 27 in Douglas County.

THUE FUTURE OF YOUTH ATHLETES

One discussion that hasn’t pivoted is the direct impact on those students who use athletics as an escape or even an avenue as a potential future.

“It’s my senior year and last year of high school football. It’s also a chance to prove myself and everything that I’ve been working for,” said Douglas senior Cameron Swain, who has been garnering college interest for his talents on the field.

“You don’t have anymore time in high school,” said Bishop Manogue senior football player Fred Tavernier. “(We) have to make the memories that we can.”

Athletes will still get six-week seasons starting in January – with winter sports followed by fall and spring – but the hope for those who want the resumption of prep athletics is to get even more time on the field.

Everyone assesses risk in different ways, which continues to add to the nuance of the discussion.

Douglas High’s Christopher Smalley and Swain as well as Tavernier said they felt safe throughout summer workouts, especially with the implementation of safety protocols.

“We couldn’t use weights so we used sandbags and everyone had their own sandbag. We wore masks, so I thought it was safe,” said Smalley.

“Our coaches would punish us if we wouldn’t keep our distance or following guidelines with what was supposed to be going on,” Tavernier said.

There’s something to be said for high school athletes speaking up for causes they believe in and they’re not planning on going away.

Saturday’s protest to resume sports in Nevada was the first of many as organizers stated they expect it to become a weekly event.

For now, sports will remain on hold in the Silver State, but those who feel sports should restart are hoping they’ll be able to play more than the six-week seasons scheduled to start in January.