by Andrew Garda
Gov. Phil Murphy may have thrown an early lifeline to winter sports on Monday, Oct. 12, when he signed a new executive order that allows practices and competitions for organized sports to take place indoors.
The order applies to sports that are defined by the New Jersey Department of Health’s “Guidance for Sports Activities” and include hockey, basketball, cheerleading, group dance, rugby, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo and wrestling.
Local schools like Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy are looking at the order and what it might entail for winter sports.
“We are working with our school medical advisory team on how Executive Order 187 will impact athletics at Montclair High School,” said Athletic Director Dr. Patrick Scarpello. “The executive order does not change the requirements and protocols set forth by NJSIAA for fall athletics.”
MKA Athletic Director Todd Smith said that while the high school will see how the order could affect the start of winter sports, fall sports will see no change.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for our student-athletes, support staff and school communities,” Murphy said when presenting the order. “After consulting stakeholders and medical experts, we have concluded that, with proper public health and safety protocols in place, indoor sports may now resume in a way that protects players, coaches and staff.”
Indoor practices and competitions will be limited to 25 percent of room capacity, “with such limit not to exceed 25 persons or be less than 10 persons.”
“However, if the number of individuals who are necessary for practice or competition, such as players, coaches and referees, exceeds 25, the practice or competition may proceed if no unnecessary individuals such as spectators are present,” the memo states.
If the number of individuals necessary for the practice or game — meaning players, coaches, and referees — is more than 25, then practice or game can go on only if no unnecessary individuals — like parents or fans — are present.
“Even if this exception applies, the number of individuals at the practice or competition cannot exceed 25 percent of the capacity of the room, and such limit cannot exceed 150 persons.”
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association released its own statement about the executive order.
“The NJSIAA thanks the governor for his unwavering support of our student athletes,” the memo said. “As noted in our social media campaign, #TheOnlyWayToPlay is to continue working together to slow the spread of the virus.”
As it stands, with girls volleyball and gymnastics moved to February, this won’t change anything for fall high school sports.
The NJSIAA memo did talk about the way things currently sit for winter sports.
Among the rules: Teams are limited to two games a week, though a pair of three-game weeks will be permitted, with a maximum of 15 total games in the regular season.
As is the case with fall sports, the postseason will look different for winter sports.
All postseason competition is limited to two teams only, though the NJSIAA says that could change, and events like holiday tournaments will be discussed closer to the season.
Practice will be permitted to begin on Thursday, Dec. 3, with regular season competition starting on Monday, Dec. 21, and finishing on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
The postseason will begin on Friday, Feb. 5, and end on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
MHS and MKA field teams in basketball, hockey, fencing, wrestling, bowling and indoor track, while Immaculate Conception High School only has basketball.