School sports programs were given the green light to take the first “baby steps” toward a possible fall  season of competition, scholastic sports officials said Friday in a virtual press conference attended by the NJSBA. 

School-affiliated sports programs will go through four stages of gradually diminishing restrictions, said Tony Maselli, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. The guidelines announced Friday are aimed at getting athletes back into shape after nearly four months of inactivity caused by the school shutdown in March.  

The first “getting in shape” stage will start on July 13 and last until July 26, Maselli said. To protect students from the coronavirus, physical contact between athletes will be prohibited. More guidelines will be announced two weeks before each new stage starts.  

Some superintendents have told him they may choose not to participate in the phased reopening of sports programs, Maselli said, because they are not certain that it’s safe, at this time, to have students back on school campuses.  

“There’s a long way to go,” Maselli said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get to July 13.” 

Rules for All School Sports During Phase One  

The NJSIAA released a complete list of rules governing sports workouts during phase one. They include: 

  1. Each district must designate school personnel to conduct daily pre-screening. This person cannot be involved in coaching student-athletes on the day they are tasked to conduct the pre-screening.
  2. To the fullest extent possible, districts should consider staggered arrival and departure times of student athletes.
  3. Each day all coaches, student-athletes, and staff must clear the pre-screening process before they are permitted to participate in the workouts.
  4. The pre-screening process will consist of a review of the pre-screening questionnaire, which shall be completed and provided to designated school personnel, and a temperature check.
  5. Any individual who answers “yes” to any question on the questionnaire, or who has a temperature greater than 100.4°F, shall not be permitted to participate in the workout and shall be required to return home.
  6. Any individual who answers “yes” to any question on the questionnaire shall be required to provide clearance from a physician before they will be permitted to resume participation in the workouts.
  1. Workouts shall be no more than 90 minutes in duration and shall include a 10-minute warm-up, and a 10-minute cool down. 
  2. Only one workout per day is permitted and there must be one day of rest per every seven days.
  3. All workouts shall take place outside during phase one.
  4. Access to workouts must be limited to student-athletes, coaches, and appropriate school personnel.
  5. There shall not be any physical contact, of any kind, between student-athletes and coaches during phase one. 
  6. Throughout phase one, workouts shall be limited to conditioning, skill sets, and sport-specific non-contact drills.
  7. Coaches should have pre-drawn structured workouts for the duration of the session.
  8. Workouts shall always comply with the NJSIAA Heat Participation Policy.
  9. Student-athletes should be provided with unlimited access to fluids.

The NJSIAA does not regulate youth sports leagues that are not affiliated with schools. 

The governor said last week that sports activities that are not regulated by the NJSIAA would be allowed to resume in stages, or “tiers,” with sports that had a low risk of spreading the coronavirus, such as golf or tennis, allowed to resume play outdoors on June 22.   

The state Department of Health has placed sports into three tiers of risk categories. Medium-risk sports include those with larger teams, including baseball, softball, basketball and soccer. Those youth league sports teams were allowed to begin practicing non-contact drills on June 22 and could resume playing games by July 6 if the coronavirus trends remain on the decline in the state, Murphy said.  

The highest–risk youth league sports, like football, can begin non-contact practices on June 22 but must wait until July 20 to play games again, the governor said.