High school sports may return this fall in Alabama. See the plans.

Photo from AHSAA

New guidelines have been provided by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for games that take place this fall. Decisions regarding participation are up to each individual school/district but should they decide to participate schools will need to follow the new AHSAA guidelines.

On Wednesday, the Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control approved the AHSAA’s Return to Play ‘Best Practices’ recommended guidelines and reaffirmed plans to start fall sports on time. 

Fall sports teams, such as football, volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving have the option to begin fall workouts for acclimation purposes and tryouts on July 27. Schools not choosing that option may start fall practice on August 3.

The first games and contests can begin as early as August 20.

Return to Play ‘Best Practices’

Photo from AHSAA Facebook page

To help ensure everyone’s safety, AHSAA released the Return to Play ‘Best Practices’ guidelines on Thursday. 

The guidance document was developed in consultation with the NCAA, National Federation of High School Athletic Associations, and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). 

“This document is not a final document.  It is going to be a fluid document that will be updated constantly by the Alabama Department of Public Health and other governing officials,” said Denise Ainsworth, AHSAA Assistant Director.

 The new Best Practices guidelines attempt to address as many scenarios as possible to safely play the games.

Some of the key components include:

  • Mitigation Strategies from the ADPH – administrators and coaches will be following the state public health mitigation strategies along with guidelines from the CDC, Alabama State Department of Education.
  • Rule modifications for fall sports – AHSAA has passed rules in each fall sport that will encourage social distancing and other mitigation strategies. The rules can be found – HERE
  • Ticketing – AHSAA  offers a ticketless platform option for schools.
  • Transportation – The local school system and school administration may determine the safest way to travel to and from contests in accordance with CDC, ADPH, and ALSDE guidelines.
  • Game Day & Event Management – All game day personnel involved in the athletic event should be screened prior to working the event. All decisions concerning spectators, student sections, stadium seating, etc., are under the guidance of home management and should be in accordance with CDC, ADPH, and local health guidelines.
  • Auxiliary Participants – Student groups such as marching bands, cheerleaders, drill teams, and any other school groups may attend and perform at games or contests if the local school/district approves.
AHSAA July 23 News Conference

The AHSAA is encouraging families and fans to watch the athletic events on the NFHS Network, a live streaming online service which enables people to view the games in the comfort of their homes.

Schools that have opted to open the school year virtually can still field athletic teams. They can also decide not to participate in athletics without penalty.

On page 9-11, in  AHSAA’s ‘Return to Play ‘Best Practices’ document is a frequently asked questions section.

Flexibility 

Photo from AHSAA

Recognizing that some communities in Alabama have been hit harder by the COVID-19 outbreak than others, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese stressed that it is important to be flexible.

“We understand schools may have to start and stop, delay or play at a later date or schedule and reschedule.  But schools will have the autonomy of when to allow their teams to participate. We all realize there is not a one size fits all solution to this health conundrum.

I am thankful to the board for providing the flexibility for students to have some semblance of fall activities. 

That’s why it is essential everyone does their part to mitigate the risk of the virus. Enabling our students to have as normal a childhood as possible.”

Stay Tuned

Keep checking back with Bham Now on this important community topic.  Meanwhile, visit the AHSAA website and learn more about their plans to keep everyone safe and healthy.

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.