NJSIAA Provides Updated, Return-to-Play Guidelines

In a memo issued today to member schools, NJSIAA (New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association) said it is aiming to open the summer recesses period on or around Monday, July 13. NJSIAA anticipates providing member schools with specific guidelines, in compliance with New Jersey Department of Education (DOE), New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), and CDC guidelines, on or before June 19.
 
Of note, coaches may continue virtual contact with players until the summer recess period officially begins. Regarding a potential July 13 start date for the summer recess period, start dates for all fall sports seasons currently remain unchanged, though the NJSIAA memo states that these dates may still be revised.
 
While Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 149 specifies that high school sports activities may not begin prior to June 30, a mid-July start date to the summer recess period would provide schools the opportunity to implement specific recommendations. If a mid-July start date were to be implemented, final determination of when practices would actually begin would be up to individual school districts.
 
“NJSIAA has established direct communication with the governor’s office, the state departments of health and education, and other state associations that are in similar situations regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA chief operating officer. “While we’re hopeful school-based athletics will start soon, the public needs to understand that high school sports are unique in that, unlike recreational programs, they must be in sync with our schools. Scholastic sports are part of the curriculum; they don’t operate independently.”
 
Decisions on the specific timing for returning to play will, in part, be based on input from the NJSIAA’s Medical Advisory Task Force. The task force is reviewing the best available science and will make recommendations consistent with input from the CDC and National Federation of State High School Associations.
 
“We believe it’s essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the state to return to physical activity and athletic competition in a safe and phased manner,” says Dr. Damion Martins,  medical director of Sports Medicine at Atlantic Health System, New York Jets team physician, and member of the NJSIAA Medical Advisory Task Force. “Our guiding principles include the need to screen for symptoms, promote appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices, and decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets.”
 
While some states have already opened high school athletics, the NJSIAA cautions that New Jersey is unique in that it is the most densely populated state and has the second highest number of total COVID-19 cases.