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The AHSAA has updated the COVID-19 protocol for the upcoming winter sports season. Photo Contributed

COVID-19 Winter Sports Protocol

MONTGOMERY- “We will continue to analyze data daily as we are very thankful where we are today, but will continue to face numerous challenges ahead.” That’s how Steve Savarese, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), sees the upcoming winter sports season in Alabama. Savarese held a special press conference updating the winter sports season with the help of the 37-member Winter Sports Task Force and Medical Advisory Board and said, “We would not be where we are today without their leadership.”

The guidelines will continue in the winter sports as attendance restrictions will remain as the AHSAA is maximizing attendance, but still have a long way to go with COVID-19 protocol. Coaches from throughout Alabama have strived to have a winter sports season and championships in each of the four sports: basketball, bowling, wrestling, and indoor track. The protocol is a very fluid directives and the guidelines could change should it be necessary as the AHSAA has vowed to stay current of the Alabama Health Department and Governor Kay Ivey’s directions.

One of the major directives is when physical distancing cannot be adhered to, facial coverings must be worn.

Jamie Lee, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association (AHSADCA) and who has 20-plus years of coaching experience, helped outline the guidelines for all winter sports as he spoke at the press conference.

“In basketball, players and coaches count towards the gym capacity and all spectators must be seated at least six feet away from the team benches and playing surfaces and that includes cheerleaders,” said Lee. “If a game is postponed it must be completed by a Feb. 2 deadline as all contests will count in standings and a game cancelled will be a forfeit. Holiday tournaments must have limits and try and utilize multiple facilities.”

Lee indicated bowling centers, which house the sport for the participating schools, will set the guidelines, but rules limiting each bowler one ball in the carrier and teams not alternating lanes will be enforced.

“Along with basketball, wrestling are the highest risk sports and we want to assist that sport by limiting floor access during an individual match and if not strictly followed, match officials can take away points,” said Lee.

Wrestling should be scheduled for duel events, which in turn will allow the AHSADCA to trace those student-athletes and who they wrestled. All events should be limited to no more than four teams.

As for indoor track, facial coverings are required if social distancing cannot be maintained.

“Please do not stop our safety practices,” said Lee. “I ask to keep teaching our athletes the pandemic situation is getting old, but we must continue, to stay strong and diligent. If we all do our jobs, we believe we’ll have a season which will have a championship at the end of the season.”

Savarese knows all players, coaches and school administrations are showing COVID-19 fatigue, but urges all to remain diligent on the pandemic practices to keep everyone safe. He has traveled the state attending athletic contests and has seen wonderful practices of following the presented protocol and looks forward to the day schools will be able to again fill arenas and gymnasiums with some type of normalcy.

“I encourage to let the season be judged not on winning, but by participating and choosing to play during this time,” added Savarese.

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