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Activities association, coaches optimistic for fall sports

September 18, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High school athletics officials and coaches are optimistic some sports teams will be able to compete this year despite silence from state officials on a tentative game schedule.

Since summer, pandemic guidelines have kept athletes in groups of five athletes per coach and required them to wear masks while exercising, even outdoors.

Under a revised public health order issued Friday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, some restrictions were loosened. For example, it permits up to 10 individuals to participate in youth sports conditioning and skills development, allowing greater flexibility for practice as fall sports like volleyball and cross country prepare for matches next month.

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“Four bodies makes a big difference because a lot of us don’t have a lot of coaches,” said part-time Pojoaque volleyball coach Joe Rodriguez.

He’s looking forward to their first game, scheduled for Oct. 13 against a Santa Fe team, and his team’s first practice on Sept. 28.

“They’ll be hungry, as far as wanting touches and getting in the gym and being around each other and knowing that they will have a season,” Rodriguez said.

In a call with coaches Friday morning, New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez said not to be discouraged and to plan for competitive games in October.

“I’ve been optimistic and very positive with our coaches that we will play again,” Marquez told The Associated Press.

Marquez said she submitted plans for all fall sports weeks ago and in some cases months ago.

Rodriguez is eager to get confirmation that his team can play. He works as a security guard and needs to plan his life. So do his students and their parents.

“Thank god my job is really supportive of what I do in my personal time,” Rodriguez said.

Pojoaque Superintendent Sondra Adams said that while the state weighs options, she has planned for every contingency around sports, including partial admission of fans or none at all.

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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.