NFHS Executive Director’s August 2020 Update

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (August 25, 2020) – Dr. Karissa Niehoff, the Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), recently addressed a variety of topics related to COVID-19 and high school sports.

Rules Meetings for 2020-21

Meetings to make rules changes will be made as scheduled during the 2020-21 school year. All rules meetings will be conducted remotely and will follow the typical process starting with proposals and ending with approval by the NFHS Board of Directors. In April, the NFHS announced four spring sports would not make any changes for 2021 in baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse and track and field.

Non-Traditional Competition in Volleyball, Football

NFHS has seen interest in some sports, such as volleyball, moving outside for competition. Vermont is looking at an option to play volleyball on turf fields but Niehoff said a question is “can they purchase outside-specific volleyball standards?”

Some states are looking at 7-on-7 football where it is approved if they can’t play 11-man.

“These are outliers right now,” Niehoff said.

As of the end of August, 17 states have moved their football seasons to the spring.

“Coaches need to be engaged with their players right now,” Niehoff said. “Hopefully teams are engaged and kids are doing some physical conditioning. Teams need to be in training and in physical protocols to keep them football fit. They may need new types of uniform supports underneath their jerseys and pads (because of colder weather).”

Athletic Competition at Fully Remote Schools

Should schools that are in a full remote learning schedule still have sports?

“We know the school community misses sports,” Niehoff said. “Learning is a different environment. Kids need social engagement. Kids need exercise. Kids need structure. And they need to have fun.”

Unique Challenges for Return of High School Sports

Many youth sports programs across the country returned to traditional activity much quicker than high school sports programs.

“With states, we knew the decisions had to be in alignment with government and state health agencies,” Niehoff said. “We are co-curricular. The federation will support what state guidelines are for risk levels of sports. Support states if they do something more stringent.

“If we rush back into this, and it results in a higher risk of contagion, we risk having to pull back again and maybe refrain for an even greater amount of time.”

In Iowa, 94 percent of high schools completed their planned baseball and softball seasons this summer, according to Niehoff. The others chose not to play from the beginning or did not finish because of COVID-19.

No state association has completely canceled sports yet for the 2020-21 school year.

Mask Wearing for Competition

“If that’s the rule enforce it,” Niehoff said. “That’s what we would say. If the requirement is for masks to be on then the mask needs to be on.”