ROBBINSVILLE — New Jersey high school sports on Friday received a glimmer of hope for their return from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a memo to its member schools, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association said it hopes to allow schools to begin summer workouts on or about July 13. The starting dates for the fall season remain unchanged but could be revised, according to the NJSIAA. High school sports have not been played in New Jersey since March 11. The virus caused the cancellation of what was left of the winter season and all of the spring season.
The NJSIAA anticipates providing member schools with specific guidelines for those summer workouts by June 19. Those guidelines will be developed in compliance with the state Department of Education, Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control. Gov. Phil Murphy announced last month that high school workouts could begin June 30 under NJSIAA guidelines.
“NJSIAA has established direct communication with the governor’s office, the state departments of health and education and other state associations that are in similar situations regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA chief operating officer, said in a prepared statement. “While we’re hopeful school-based athletics will start soon, the public needs to understand that high school sports are unique in that, unlike recreational programs, they must be in sync with our schools. Scholastic sports are part of the curriculum; they don’t operate independently.”
The NJSIAA, which governs most high school sports in the state, said coaches may continue virtual contact with players until summer workouts officially begin.
Last month, it announced the formation of two task forces to guide the comeback of high school sports from the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Sports Advisory Task Force consists of athletic directors who will consider a wide range of sports-specific proposals and recommendations with a focus on implementing, executing and enforcing potential modifications. This group will seek input from athletic directors around the state.
The COVID-19 Medical Advisory Task Force consists primarily of medical professionals and will identify and implement both general and sports-specific modifications.
Damion Martins, who is the medical director of Sports Medicine at Atlantic Health System and the New York Jets team physician, said the NJSIAA medical task force, of which he is a member, believes it’s essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students to return to physical activity and athletic competition safely and in phases.
“Our guiding principles,” he said in Friday’s prepared statement, “include the need to screen for symptoms, promote appropriate social distancing and hygiene practices, and decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets.”