VALLEY CITY, N.D. During a time of cancellations, postponements and alterations to seasons in the sports world due to the coronavirus pandemic, the North Dakota High School Activities Association had some good news for athletes, families and coaches in North Dakota hoping to return to athletic competition this fall. The NDHSAA Board of Directors gave the go ahead for all fall sports and activities during a video conference Thursday, July 16, unanimously approving to go on with the fall season as planned.
The board plans to host all fall sports on its previously approved calendar at this time, leaving the decision to participate up to each individual school district. The motion made Thursday gives high school sports the green light to go forward with local control for schools to decide if they want to play or not, granting that authority for them to do so.
School boards and local public health units will determine if its schools will sponsor sports and activities, the NDHSAA said.
However, any plan, schedule or procedure may be modified as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
With member schools having the option to provide in-person education for students, the NDHSAA believes it is important those schools also have the option to return to physical activity and competition, NDHSAA Executive Director Matt Fetsch said.
Thursday’s video conference came two days after North Dakota officials announced guidelines for reopening K-12 schools this fall.
Local school districts have the power to decide whether to hold in-person classes, offer virtual instruction or take a hybrid approach depending on decisions made by local school boards and COVID-19 conditions in each district, Gov. Doug Burgum said at a press conference Tuesday, July 14.
Everyone’s health and safety is paramount in moving forward with activities and it will not come without disruption, however, providing these opportunities is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students,” Fetsch said.
Boys soccer is the first fall sport to start with practices set to begin Aug. 3 and the first competition date slated for Aug. 14.
Football, boys tennis, Class A girls golf, and boys and girls cross country are set to report to their first fall practices Aug. 10.
The role that sports and activities play in the lives of our youth is extremely important, NDHSAA Board President Travis Jordan said. Our students need connection now more than ever and the decision today grants yet another vehicle for that to occur.
The news comes amidst a rise in active cases in the state, which has seen a surge in COVID-19 infections over the last few weeks. North Dakota recorded a pandemic-high of 720 active cases Tuesday, July 14. More than 700 North Dakota residents are currently infected with the illness.
The high school association and NDHSAA Board said they will continue to work closely with North Dakota health and public instruction officials, as well as the governors office, as the upcoming school year approaches.
It’ll be vital moving forward that the NDHSAA and its Board of Directors continues to monitor information and guidance from these groups, Jordan said.
The NDHSAA Board President said ensuring the safety of the state’s student-athletes, coaches and advisors is a top priority.
Guidelines for a return to competition will be shared with member schools late next week.
The Return to Competition Committee will meet next week, Friday, July 24, where the board will receive a draft of guidelines for the fall sports season, which will need to be approved to move on schedule.
The high school associations in Utah, Pennsylvania and Ohio have also given the go ahead for fall sports and activities to move forward as originally scheduled.
The NDHSAA suspended all winter and spring sports activities March 13, two days before Gov. Burgum ordered schools to close due to COVID-19.