Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday afternoon that minimal contact sports would be allowed to resume competition Saturday at the youth and adult levels under directive 034.
However, Sisolak deferred any resumption of play at the high school level to the NIAA.
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,” said Sisolak.
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. Fallon Youth Football League and Fallon Pop Warner canceled their seasons over the summer. Fallon’s basketball and wrestling leagues, including Greenwave Youth Wrestling Club, Fallon Outlaws and Fallon Youth Basketball, could join the football leagues’ fate if the state’s restrictions are not lifted in time.
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 saying it “will continue to engage in dialogue related to the return to play for our sanctioned sports.”
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.”
Club or travel sports will be allowed to resume per the directive and high school teams can conduct “summer” seasons of playing in games or tournaments.
Before last week’s announcement, Churchill County School District offered insight regarding factors leading into the NIAA’s decision to start the sports season in January.
CCSD Superintendent Summer Stephens said that schools need to ensure they can stay open, cross-district competitions could lead to more COVID-19 cases and her county’s facing transportation issues. CCSD doesn’t have enough bus drivers to transport the students during the school day and taking away buses for competitions could have a negative effect.
“Introducing cross district competitions and more intense work at the local level could introduce more cases of COVID-19, leading to the need to make changes to the school plan,” she said. “In addition, our district is strapped for transportation as it is and introducing travel would be difficult at this time. The logistics that would need to be considered using the current restrictions and guidelines are important and would take away from the focus on the primary work we are doing with ensuring that we engage students in learning tasks, especially with the quarter for potential learning stagnation or loss.”
The recent protests in Washoe and Carson counties seemed to accelerate the state announcing an update on youth and high school sports. The last update from Sisolak came in June when the state was still operating under a phased approach. The NIAA followed up in July with another update about starting the season with winter sports in January, followed by fall sports and lastly, spring.
Stephens said most are unaware of everything that must be in place to conduct a sports season safely. The delayed start allowed teachers in both CCSD and at Oasis Academy time to focus solely on preparing their classrooms with the new changes due to the pandemic. Additionally, the NIAA has repeatedly stated that students must be on campus to compete. Currently, Elko and Clark counties are all full-distance learning.
“There are so many pieces that must be in place for different pieces of school to function, activities and athletics included,” Stephens said. “Most people are not aware of all of the elements that need to be considered for any component of the school experience to function. We are committed to ensuring we get learning back on track and then will work hard to support the co-curricular components of the experience. Performing well in the learning, academic and school base is also critical to colleges who are looking at athletes.”
Thomas Ranson contributed to this story.