TSSAA addresses summer sports activities

(TSSAA) Executive Director Bernard Childress and the TSSAA state office staff are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on interscholastic athletics in Tennessee.

Due to the ongoing social distancing efforts, the Board of Control’s three-day meeting originally scheduled for June in Murfreesboro has been cancelled. The Board will take into consideration the items from the June agenda at the August meeting. The first day of the June meeting was to be set aside for a classification study session. Instead of a face-to-face meeting, each Board member will be sent the plans they requested to review with the goal of holding the classification study session in late July.

“The classification process is very important to our member schools and with so many different variables and plans to discuss, I believe this is a meeting that should take place in-person if at all possible,” said Bernard Childress, Executive Director. “The plans under consideration by the Board and the decisions they’ll be making on classification will not go into effect until August 2021, which does allow us some leeway on the timeline considering the circumstances.”

In regards to the TSSAA/TMSAA Sports Calendar and what school-related activities are permitted during the months of May, June, and July, all member school athletic programs will need to follow the TSSAA/TMSAA Sports Calendar as written.

TSSAA is recommending that member schools follow the state and local government along with the CDC and local Health Department guidelines concerning social distancing, understanding that these guidelines will continue to change from county to county and as the summer progresses.

“It is totally the decision of local Boards of Education, Directors of Schools, and/or Heads of School as to how much they are going to allow coaches to do face-to-face activities with their students,” added Childress.

“No one knows when school or non-school teams will be allowed to compete against one another,” he continued, “but in terms of practice, coaches should already be familiar with the Council’s calendar for their sport and are free to conduct practice sessions within the framework of those rules and the social distancing guidelines of health professionals and their LEA.”

Schools have also been advised that summer begins when the school and/or school system was originally scheduled to be dismissed. Up until that point, all sports are in the off-season. In following the TSSAA/TMSAA Sports Calendar, it should be noted that coaches may conduct “online” practice sessions as long as they are following the guidelines which are specific to their sport. As usual, weight lifting and conditioning, even if conducted “online,” must be open to all students and not required of any of them to participate.

The “Dead Period,” a two-week period in the summer where coaches are not permitted to be in contact with players, will remain in place.

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Included is an FAQ that should help to answer several of the most frequent questions.

Q: If the CDC or our local health department recommends that only 10 or fewer people be together, can we have multiple practices on a single day with a different small group of kids each time and only be considered a single practice for the purposes of the TSSAA Sports Calendar?

A: Yes. This would be permissible provided that your LEA and school administration allows it.

Q: What do we do about kids who are not able to get a pre-participation physical due to the lack of availability of medical professionals who are open or available to perform this service?

A: Pre-participation physicals that are dated on or after April 15, 2019 are good for the purposes of TSSAA eligibility throughout the summer of 2020 up until the first official day of practice for a fall sport that the student wishes to participate in. We are aware that getting a pre-participation physical may be an issue for some students due to the lack of availability of medical professionals, and we will have more information on how this will be handled in the coming weeks.

Q: Can we host a game this summer to honor our seniors who did not have a chance to be recognized this season?

A: TSSAA Bylaws do not permit a high school graduate to participate in TSSAA scrimmage or competition between two TSSAA school teams. However, there is no TSSAA compliance issue with a senior playing on an independent team with other students from his or her school.

Q: Can a coach host a video conference meeting (eg. Zoom, Webex, Hangouts) during the offseason with his or her team?

A: It depends. If sport-specific instruction is given during the video conference meeting (eg. installing offense, blocking techniques, etc.) then the meeting would be considered practice and could only take place when the TSSAA Sports Calendar does not restrict practice for the particular sport in question.

Q: Is it considered a recruiting violation if we post information about summer workouts and practice schedules on social media for incoming 9th graders?

A: No, provided that this information is distributed openly and is not being sent to a specific student or groups of students.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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