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Yodice: Prep fall sports athletes, coaches need final answer

There are a thousand questions and almost no answers.

I wrote those words — in the middle of May. How many of us seriously thought the gist of that statement would still be applicable in early October?

Certainly, we have fewer questions than 4½ months ago. And more answers.

We know that most of the high school sports calendar will occur in 2021. At least, we hope that is the case. New Mexicans have their collective fingers and toes crossed.

And, a small bit of that prep calendar is supposed to unfold over the next couple of months, through Dec. 12.

The operative phrase in that sentence being, “supposed to.”

On Saturday of this week, the first official cross country meets and volleyball matches are scheduled to take place at various sites around New Mexico, including here in the metro area.

With the countdown clock to Saturday now palpably audible, tremendous angst remains for coaches, athletes and fans.

Will they compete?

No one knows. And of all the questions that haven’t been addressed during this phase of the ongoing pandemic — aside from when students can return to campuses en masse — that’s the one that seems to most ominously hang over our heads.

To that end, as of Monday evening, nobody could say with any certainty that there will even be a fall for those two sports, plus the fall portion of golf which is minimal.

The governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has not said either way whether athletes in these sports will have a season in the fall, or whether she’ll ban even these non-contact sports for the duration of 2020 and push them to next year. Football, soccer, basketball, swimming and wrestling already had their seasons transferred fully to 2021.

And since Saturday is fast approaching, the lack of clarity seems somewhat problematic, to say the least, wouldn’t you agree? It is, at the very least, monumentally frustrating.

And let’s be frank, this frustration is well founded. There should have been direction from Santa Fe on this subject by now.

The athletes, in particular, have been waiting long enough. Yes or no. But give them an answer. That’s a fair request. This already has exacted an enormous emotional and mental toll on kids. For that reason alone, this merits immediate attention from the decision makers in Santa Fe.

In the meantime, let’s attack the current dilemma from a more practical, logistical standpoint.

Organizers of local cross country meets this weekend need some time, a couple of days, to get everything in place. That includes the course, plus having additional things squared away like parking and such.

Volleyball would be simpler to map since it’s indoors, but that doesn’t mean officials don’t have logistics to square away.

And since the state remains in a pod system — no more than 10 in any one indoor or outdoor pod, a combination of coaches and athletes — and teams are handcuffed by other requirements, how is volleyball supposed to proceed with a normal match?

It can’t. Even with athletes in masks, it can’t.

And none of this takes into account whether fans will be permitted, and local athletic directors surely would want adequate time to prep everything at their venues if fans are somehow given permission to attend in small numbers, like a 25% gym capacity, for example. But I don’t imagine the governor is going to allow anyone other than coaches, athletes and officials into any prep event for the immediate future.

What we do know is that on Monday, the first official, in-season high school “practices” since March — golf, volleyball and cross country only— were taking place. A definite plus. But even then, these workouts come with numerous governor-implemented restrictions. It’s not ideal.

And out-of-season workouts are now permissible in all other sports. Monday was the first day that Albuquerque Public Schools could conduct workouts in the four contact sports: football, soccer, basketball and wrestling.

By this coming Saturday, it will have been 30 weeks — 210 long days — since the last high school competition in New Mexico.

I hate to even think it, but might it end up being much longer than that?

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