Wednesday’s “Eye on the Ball” show on KVOI (1030-AM) featured Arizona Interscholastic Association assistant executive director Joe Paddock about topics related to the upcoming fall season of high school sports with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic under consideration.
The AIA last week released its recommendations for student-athletes to return on campus for summer workouts in phases. The recommendations were established by the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee with assistance from guidelines by state and national health committees, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
School districts may base their own plans off the AIA’s recommended guidelines. All school districts draft their own guidelines for student-athletes to return to campuses for summer workouts.
“Most of the superintendents of the public schools down here in Southern Arizona have agreed to wait until a July 1 date to open campuses,” Paddock said. “Up in the Phoenix area, about half of them are opened, I’m not even sure if it’s half, but some opened on June 1. Others are waiting until June 15.”
With July 1 close to the Fourth of July holiday, districts may opt to allow the return after that date.
The 12-page AIA document includes general health practices, including athletes, coaches and administrators staying home if sick or at risk for severe illness, and frequently washing hands and using a face mask when possible. The AIA also recommends daily health and temperature checks and for schools to issue questionnaires that require athletes to list symptoms they may have on a daily basis.
The AIA also recommends athletes to avoid fist bumps, high fives and hugging, as well as to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. The recommendations also call for outdoor practices when possible and for drinking fountains and locker rooms to not be used.
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The first phase of the AIA recommendations calls for groups no larger than 10 that remain together each day.
All athletes and coaches must be symptom-free for at least 14 days before taking part in training exercises. If athletes live with someone that is either sick or at an elevated risk, they should not attend workouts. All personal equipment should be disinfected after practice.
The second phase allows for 50 or more athletes. All other precautions from phase one remain intact. Once in phase three, teams may return to a traditional practice setting with no limitations on the number of participants. Contact is allowed to proceed in the third phase along with the use of shared equipment. The AIA also emphasized the importance of heat acclimatization in its return-to-play recommendations.
“With this situation, there’s no definitive answer right now,” Paddock said about the dates of the phases and if fall sports will start on time. “At this point, based upon what’s being presented, it sounds like everything can start on time, but realistically, some schools are going to start maybe a little bit later.
“It’s really going to be kind of wait-and-see and help as best as we can.”
Here is the insightful interview with Paddock (Eye on the Ball can be heard weekdays 6 to 7 p.m. at KVOI.com via a live stream).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.