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Plans are for full high school football season

By Staff, 07/31/20 2:17 PM

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has given the green light for fall high school sports to be held.

In his daily COVID-19 address, Hutchinson said high school football teams can begin non-contact drills with helmets on Aug. 3-7, and full contact drills the following week. The Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) has been asked to submit a plan for the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) for fall sports. A high school sports advisory group is being developed, he said, to make recommendations and advise on best practices to protect everyone involved.

Hutchinson’s talk concerned all high school sports and extracurricular activities, including band and cheerleading, though the primary focus was on football. He said there’s more than three weeks before school begins and those involved will learn what adjustments need to be made to improve safety protocols for players and coaches. The idea is to consider every angle possible to protect those involved. “My advice [to players] is to grab your helmets and get ready for practice. After practice grab your mask.”

He urged coaches to set an example by wearing masks themselves. Hutchinson talked about the importance of athletics to those involved, saying student athletes tend to do better in class, have fewer discipline problems and is important for their self-esteem. He reminded everyone participation in extracurricular activities isn’t mandatory, but a choice and parents can decide whether or not to allow their children to participate. He added, if there’s no fall sports, those who would normally be practicing and participating will be engaging in other behaviors which could result in an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

Jose Romero, with the ADH, said this will be a learning experience for everyone involved, and the state is currently learning from Major League Baseball and the problems it’s having with the virus. He said the ADH has given Hutchinson  advice and will make further recommendations. He added, based on the number of plays where there’s actual contact between players during a game, the amount of time is less than six minutes. Romero said this figure came from a coach who studies the amount of physical contact during games.

Lance Taylor, with the AAA, said cheerleaders can move forward next week and band guidelines are being tweaked by the ADH and should be ready by next week. He added hopes are to start the season on time and play a full schedule as surrounding states are doing this.

Hutchinson said fans are a separate issue at this time and are subject to the ADH’s large gathering guidelines.Fans will be required to follow social distancing and wear masks at games.

In a previous update, Hutchinson approved the Southeast Conference’s (SEC) proposed schedule which will be conference games only.