SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High school students won't be able to compete in any sports this fall or winter after state officials clarified Thursday that they won't amend a state health order banning school sports this year.
“We didn’t update the public health order to ever permit us or K-12 games or competitions, this fall. We were very clear about that. We didn’t amend the order to do that, and that includes club sports," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
Coaches of non-contact sports like volleyball, golf and cross-country were so upbeat about returning to competition that a season's worth of matches was already scheduled and teams were holding practices earlier in the week. School officials in Pojojuaque were making contingency plans for the possibility of fans attending the matches in-person.
“Today’s announcement by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to cancel fall sports is disappointing for our athletes, coaches, students, and supporters,” Albuquerque Public Schools interim Superintendent Scott Elder said. “We’re sorry for the disappointment so many are experiencing today. It may seem as if this pandemic will last forever, but it won’t, and when the time comes, we will be prepared to pick up where we left off with a new appreciation for our health, friendships, and freedoms.”
High school athletes are still allowed to practice under restrictions in groups of 10 or less, including a coach. Scrimmages are prohibited. Masks are required.
College athletics including contact sports such as football at the University of New Mexico have been allowed to go forward after officials there agreed to a rigorous and expensive testing strategy to monitor potential outbreaks.
High school coaches fear that athletes are losing an incentive to get good grades, which are required to participate in school sports. All public high schools in New Mexico are currently online, and many students have failed to adjust.
According to the New Mexico Activities Association, 70 percent of student athletes had at least one failing grade in September.
“We were planning and hoping to begin competition this month as our member schools are eager to safely integrate sports and activities back in to our students’ lives,” NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez said. “At this point, however, we cannot stage any competitive events without an update to the current public health order."
In a video address Tuesday, Marquez had described sports like volleyball as “low risk” and had been hopeful games would be played Saturday as scheduled, saying “If we are given the go-ahead, we will be so happy.”
Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.