A normal offseason in the high school sports universe lasts about 11 weeks.
The duration of this one? A mere 37 days.
But on Monday morning, we officially hit the reset button and return to a full, nine months-long prep sports calendar.
Football teams around the state get their start on Monday, their first August practices in two years. Soccer, volleyball and cross country join the party a week from Monday. The first varsity football games in the metro area are scheduled Thursday night, Aug. 19.
So, where are we as this brief hiatus ends?
Well, the pandemic is not yet over, let’s begin with that.
And there remain some rules in place related to COVID.
For the indoor sports —we’re just addressing volleyball for now — unvaccinated individuals must wear masks. That applies to athletes, coaches, officials, fans and media.
Those who are vaccinated do not have to wear masks for volleyball. (And, possibly, the winter sports down the road, but as we all have learned, the line is constantly shifting as it relates to the coronavirus and how it is legislated, so we’ll deal with that when the time comes.)
However, not every school district is obligated to follow the aforementioned guideline. Individual school districts could, if they so desire, adopt stricter mask-wearing rules for the indoor sports.
Albuquerque Public Schools and Los Lunas Public Schools have already voted to have everyone wearing masks indoors during the school day, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated.
This is in deference to the new, more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. Rio Rancho Public Schools has a board meeting on Monday night and is expected to craft its policy at that meeting, district athletic director Bruce Carver said.
Los Lunas district AD Wilson Holland said Los Lunas is going to require everyone at home volleyball matches at Los Lunas High and Valencia High to be in masks, even those who have received their vaccination shots. This policy, Holland added, will be re-evaluated weekly.
Will either APS or Rio Rancho be following suit, with similarly tighter rules? We’ll have to wait and see.
As for the outdoor sports in the fall, no masks will be required for athletes, no matter their vaccination status. This is probably the most welcomed development.
But, when those sports move indoors for anything team-related, like a locker room or a weight room or a conference room, it’ll be an extension of the volleyball framework: the non-vaccinated must wear masks under the roof.
State championship events in the fall will feature some new wrinkles, at least as it compares to the fall of 2019.
The cross country meet now has a permanent home at Albuquerque Academy, which proved to be a terrific venue at the spring state meet in late March.
Soccer finals are going to return to the University of New Mexico for the second time this calendar year.
But the rest of the soccer playoffs will mirror the spring — the higher seeds will host games in the first round, quarterfinals and semifinals.
To that end, soccer is going back to a 12-team tournament for the upper classes; it was eight in the spring, when the first round was ditched just for that unique, condensed season.
The major alteration to the soccer landscape is that we can expect two rounds on the first week of the playoffs for Classes 5A and 4A, and the semifinals and finals in the second week. Hence, the three-games-in-three-days possibility for the finalists in that second week exists no more. In theory, this format ought to make for fresher legs, and more compelling action, when we arrive at the finish line.
Ditto with volleyball, which is again a dozen teams rather than eight and is returning to double elimination. The state tournament finals in the spring were held at the Pit, but the entire postseason goes back to Rio Rancho (championship games at the Rio Rancho Events Center) this coming November.
Football was the one sport in the spring that didn’t have any playoffs, but we are on track to have our normal postseasons in a few months.
Normal, of course, being a relative term for now.
In the meantime, away we go.