Que Tucker, Commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, released the following statement Friday regarding the start of high school athletics:
“All of us have been waiting for this day for eight long months, and we are looking forward to the start of competition in volleyball and cross country on Monday. We are excited to once again be able to provide competitive learning opportunities for student athletes under the NCHSAA umbrella in North Carolina.
“With the recent and continuing rise in COVID-19 numbers across the state, and upon advisement from the Governor’s health advisors, DHHS, and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) the NCHSAA Board of Directors implemented a mask mandate for all individuals involved in indoor skill development activities as well as volleyball practice and contests. We believe that this is a necessary and safe step to control the spread of COVID-19 in our programs.
“It is important to remind everyone that the NCHSAA views sports that are currently in-season differently than those that are in off-season periods. The only sports that are currently in-season are volleyball and cross country. All other sports are currently in their off-season period and may only participate in skill development sessions. Skill development sessions are not practice and all guidance relative to social distancing must be followed in skill development sessions. No recommendation has been made at this time to require the wearing of masks during Basketball practice, which may not begin officially until December 7, 2020.
“Currently, after two weeks of practice, several volleyball teams across the state are in quarantine and will not start their competitive seasons on time due to COVID-19 exposure. With approximately 400 volleyball teams and nearly that number of cross country teams actively participating across the state at this time, we believe it is our responsibility to do all we can to keep this number as low as possible. The mask mandate for all indoor skill development activities is the most effective way we currently have to mitigate the risk of infection, while allowing opportunities for athletic participation to continue.
“We are asking our coaches, student-athletes and administrators for their continued vigilance and cooperation in these measures, including making sure to properly social distance during skill development sessions and adherence to the mask mandate. We all must do our part. It is our hope that by taking these steps now to get COVID-19 under control in all athletic programs, that we give ourselves a chance to offer competitive opportunities in all other sports at their designated times for this school year.”
Along with this annoncement, the NCHSAA announced that all student-athletes participating in indoor sports will be required to wear masks at all times.
“Effective no later than Monday, volleyball players are required to wear face masks during volleyball practices and contests. A student with a medical condition that would prohibit wearing a face mask during competition will need medical documentation from a physician licensed to practice medicine, nurse practitioner or physician assistant.
“Effective immediately, all persons participating in indoor skill development are required to wear a face mask at all times. This includes student-athletes, coaches, support staff, etc.”
The decision to require masks for student-athletes stems from recent meetings between the NCHSAA, its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services doctors.
These discussions, which resulted from the rising number of new coronavirus cases both nationwide and in-state, convinced the NCHSAA Board of Directors to implement a stricter policy for face coverings.
Official skill development sessions for volleyball began Nov. 4. The NCHSAA’s previous guidelines for the sport only required masks to be worn by those student-athletes not actively competing. Once an athlete left the court, she had to immediately put a mask on.
The email distributed by the association also stated that NCHSAA staff members had received “additional reports of volleyball teams being quarantined.”
The previous guidelines for spectators, coaches, officials and team doctors remains the same as they were already required to wear masks at all times.
At the time of publication, no changes have been made to the NCHSAA’s limitations on fan attendance. That number still sits at 25 for indoor events and the lesser of 100 individuals or 30% of the facility’s stated fire capacity for outdoor events.
Guidelines also say spectators must remain seated, and players, coaches, workers, entertainers, and support staff do not count toward the capacity limits.
These added precautions come just days away from teams’ first matches, which can officially be held next week.
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to mitigate against the continuing spread of COVID-19, and it is our belief that [these] steps will assist those efforts. Working together, we can get through this,” the email stated.