National group says fall sports should proceed

This chart provided by the National Foundation of High School Sports Associations shows what states have made decisions on high school sports.

The National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS), which oversees high school sports nationwide and consults with the local state athletic associations, made it clear Monday that it believes fall sports should proceed.

During a Zoom call for the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and how it relates to high school sports, the NFHS said the decisions made by colleges to forgo their fall seasons will not enter into any state’s decision on its high school sports.

“We want kids to be back, for a number of reasons. ... We’ve seen at the collegiate level where very powerful leagues — the Ivy League — and smaller D-I leagues have actually decided to cancel their seasons,” NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said. “The NFHS and our member state organizations want to be clear in our messaging.

“We are different because we are education based.”

The NFHS points to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin called “The Impact of School Closures and Sport Cancellations on the Health of Wisconsin Adolescent Athletes” that interviewed 3,243 Wisconsin student athletes between the ages of 15-18 in May. Of the respondents, 65 percent experienced increased anxiety, while moderate to severe depression was 3.5 times higher along with a 50-percent reduction in physical activity during the pandemic.

“In our education-based environment, we want to make sure we are paying attention — not just to COVID — but also to the emotional and mental wellness of our students, and why our student have to engage in those activities,” Niehoff said. 

Niehoff said she thought most fall sports could played on time, but she was concerned about high contact sports such as football.

“I think golf and cross-country can probably start without delay,” NIehoff said. “High-contact sports like football without mitigation without testing, I don’t know. Again, it’s up to each individual state. I think we are in a pattern of delay for the higher risk sports like football, where as other sports will engage in more traditional competition earlier.”

The financial aspect of the pandemic on the sports association was also discussed during the meeting.

“Our state directors have told us it’s cost them anywhere from $150,000 to over $2.5 million loss to state associations revenues,” Niehoff said. “If there are no fall championships — I’ll say in football — I think they are going to be in pretty dire straits financially. ... This not going to be a one-year problem. If there are no fall championships and sports for our school districts that goes far beyond this one calendar year.”

WIth that in mind, the NFHS is offering all of its 19,500 member high schools two cameras to install in gymnasiums and fields to offer livestreaming of events through the NFHS Network.

“We have over 40 webinars scheduled, and the NFHS Network staff will be installing these units. We hope schools can be capturing content — not just for athletics, but for performing arts,” Niehoff said. 

Additionally, the NFHS is one of the sponsors of a six-month study on the aerosol spread of the coronavirus, and is studying transmissions among high school band members. The hope is the study will help with coming up with guidelines for sports through the study of how droplets spread through instrument play.

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