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What to do with COVID-19 and athletics

Posted By Justin Chapman, Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Here we are in August, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to alter almost every facet of life – including interscholastic athletics.

As an AD, you prepare for many health and safety related issues, but usually they don’t threaten to postpone all sports at your school. The impact of COVID-19 on a community varies with location, but for the foreseeable future, precautions everywhere are needed to stop the spread of the disease.

So, is there a way to keep athletics going and manage them safely? I’m not sure, that’s for you to decide. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Each and every one of you are in a unique situation pertaining to the virus and your community.
Because of this, I’m not able to spell out what precautions you should take or what methods and tools work best. That’s what the medical experts are for.

However, like I wrote in my welcome post two weeks ago, we learn from others. That is important now more than ever. Gary Stevens, CMAA and Director of Student Activities at Thornton Academy in Saco, ME, has been seeking assistance since quarantine began in March.

“I’ve been working collaboratively with athletic directors from around my state and around the country, in trying to prepare for athletics in the wake of COVID-19,” Stevens said.

Our Board president, Lanness Robinson, CMAA and Director of Athletics at Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, FL, can say the same as he has also been reaching out to ADs statewide and nationwide.

Furthermore, each of them has joined panels or discussed with committees in order to seek direction. Stevens said he recently had a conversation with nurses and an athletic trainer at his school just to talk through what to do if a student tests positive and other fundamental health procedures.

The lesson to take away from Stevens and Robinson is this: the most helpful thing you can do as an AD right now is communicate. You are the best person equipped to make decisions pertaining to athletics at your school/district, but make sure to connect with other ADs before coming to a conclusion.

“Athletic directors cannot operate on an island in this situation,” Stevens said. “We don’t have either the time … the expertise to deal with many of these areas. We need to listen to others, and I think it’s been one of the blessings of this experience is that I’ve seen a lot of collaboration and meetings among different groups that wouldn’t have talked otherwise.”

Regarding application of precautions, Stevens said he feels relatively well-informed on the tools and methods that can stop the spread of COVID-19, but implementing them into a competitive situation is problematic. Just about every sport besides golf and tennis requires close contact between competitors.

Requiring student-athletes to wear masks while playing is the only feasible tool to implement – but that comes with its own complications. Masks make it harder to breathe, especially when you’re exercising.

“There are people that say we should play sports, just for the mental genesis alone, and then there are people that say there’s no way we should be playing sports,” Robinson said. “There is truly a mixed bag of responses and ideas there to what should or should not happen.”

We’re in an everchanging situation. Robinson put it best, “Anybody you talk to will say, ‘Hey, the situation is fluid. Subject to change.’” Be prepared to make plans and then change them. Then change them again. And again.

Robinson said ADs like to plan and get ahead of the situation, but that isn’t an option here. It’s one day at a time now.

Through this blog, I want to share a variety of AD-centric thoughts and stories in the hopes that you will leave each post with practical and applicable knowledge. For this post, the application is as simple as taking take the time to reach out to others daily and have conversations with people you may not normally talk to. Whether that’s within your district, school, or state. Their perspective could be impactful to how you run your program.

In addition, stay informed. The Summer Interscholastic Athletic Administrators (IAA) edition has many COVID-19 related articles. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here:

Also, NIAAA members can watch our free recording of the workshop “The Game Changer: Managing High School Athletic Events in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” If you didn’t watch it live, go to, click the “Member Portal” tab, then click “Member Resources.”

With the uncertainty in the school year ahead, tap into the resources around you. Reach out. Connect. Gain the ADvantage – it’s what you, coaches, student-athletes and everyone in your school needs.

Tags:  AD  ADvantage  athletics  covid 

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