High school, youth sports returning in Alabama

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor 

MONTGOMERY – In her latest amendment to the safer-at-home order on Thursday, May 21, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced athletic activities can resume for team sports starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.

“Youth sports and other athletic events are going to be allowed on a gradual basis starting when this health order takes effect tomorrow night,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said during a press conference on May 21. “There will be practices, conditioning and drills for youth sports.”

Harris said they are asking people to not compete in direct competitions until June 14 because of the crowds that they would draw, but workouts, conditioning and other activities permitted are going to be allowed by the state.

The amended safer-at-home order says, “participation in team athletic activities is limited to practices that involve conditioning, skill drills and similar activities.”

Then, on June 15, teams will be allowed to participate in competitions or other activities as permitted by their governing body as long as the proper protocols are met.

Social distancing is one of the precautions outlined.

Players, coaches, officials and spectators shall not congregate within 6 feet of a person from another household except to the extent necessary. It is also ordered that players, coaches, officials and spectators refrain from high fives, handshakes and other physical contact.

Each of those parties will also be asked to wear a mask when not participating directly in an athletic activity and to use proper sanitation. That includes water coolers, drinking stations and any sort of drinking device such as cups and bottles, while also regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association said earlier in the week that summer workouts and conditioning “should” be able to start on June 8 after meeting with State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey. The AHSAA, however, did cancel all summer competitions leading up to the 2020-21 sports calendar year, meaning football, volleyball and cross country this fall would be the first time we would see any competition.

“Once we return on June 8, you will be able to start in small groups, currently in groups of 10 that are non-interchangeable,” ASHAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said earlier in the week. “You must provide all cleanliness guidelines that are provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

While schools will be allowed to reopen June 1, which could push up the timeline for when athletic activities are allowed, school team sports will have to wait for the official announcement from the AHSAA and superintendents for their district.

Saverese said the AHSAA will provide a checklist of information for each team to go through before the first workout that would be available following Ivey’s press conference on Thursday.

While high schools have to wait a little longer to hear from their superintendents and the AHSAA, other youth sports, such as Little League activities, can resume their practices as soon as Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m.

For those organizing athletic activities, it is asked that you follow guidelines set by the Alabama Department of Public Health, which can be found at Alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/assets/cov-sah-athletic-activities.pdf.

More information will be provided on the exact time frame for high school sports when an announcement is shared by the AHSAA and local schools.