TSSAA Defers to Local Officials, Federal Guidance for Summer, Fall Activities


by Brad Sam


© 2020 Tri-County Pub., Inc.

NASHVILLE (May 22) — The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) issued a memorandum to member schools last week regarding athletic activities during the summer and into the fall.

The memo includes Return to Sports Guidelines recently issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which TSSAA says should serve as guidance for schools as they develop their own policies.

“What has become very clear is that policies enacted at the state, city and local levels may ultimately determine whether or not you are able to engage in the specific types of activities described in this document,” the memo states. “As a result, TSSAA is not in a position to develop policy regarding coordinated approaches to activity. The NFHS guidelines are based on the federal guidelines for the phased reopening of America. We are not aware of a central repository of information that delineates what recovery phase your school or school system may be under. When using this document, you will need to consult with local authorities in determining which of the three phases would be appropriate for the development of your specific guidelines.”

The NFHS guidelines for workouts, practices and competition include three phases based on conditions in individual states and localities. The primary distinction between the three phases is the number of persons allowed at gatherings. Phase 1 limits gatherings to ten people, Phase 2 allows for ten people indoors and 50 people outdoors, and Phase 3 allows for 50 people indoors or out.

All phases include the following recommendations:

-Social distancing of at least six feet.

-Temperature and symptom screenings for all student-athletes and coaches (fever of at least 100.3, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea).

-Personal water bottles for each individual.

-No use of water fountains, showers or locker rooms.

-Hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations.

-Cleaning and sanitizing of all equipment before and after each individual use.

The NFHS document contains guidelines for contests as well as practice and conditioning. However, the TSSAA memo indicates that “questions about regular season contests, postseason tournaments, playoffs and state championships are matters that we believe are best addressed at a later date.” TSSAA recently canceled its June Board of Control meeting and will next meet in August.

The TSSAA memo concludes, “We will continue to examine these issues in an effort to develop answers as new information and guidance becomes available. We know these are important issues, but our most urgent focus is on safely returning kids to activities this summer. Preliminary research strongly suggests that school closure and cancellation of activities is having a significant impact on the physical and mental health of students. It is our hope that this guiding document will help schools design specific plans that maximize opportunities for their students to return to activities while minimizing the risk for COVID-19 exposure.”