The Mississippi High School Activities Association has continued to work with state officials and medical experts to determine the safest practices as they attempt to play fall sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practice for cross country, swimming and volleyball can begin August 10 with competition among schools permitted starting August 24. Practice for football can begin August 17. Scrimmages between schools are allowed beginning August 28 with games starting September 4.
The season is fast approaching and from MHSAA’s collaboration with state leaders and health officials they have established guidelines that all schools are encouraged to follow as Mississippi schools return to play.
Things will look particularly different on the football field to help coaches and players practice social distancing. The team box on the sideline has been extended on both sides of the field. The boundaries of the box now extend to the 10 yard line for players only. Coaches will have to remain within the original boundaries. Players have been instructed not to share uniforms, towels, and other apparel and equipment. The football should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest as recommended by the ball manufacturer.
Intermission periods between quarters and after scoring have been extended by two minutes. The amount of time allowed during charged timeouts may be extended to a maximum of two minutes in length. The authorized conference for the time out should take place between the 9-yard marks and not on the sideline for social distancing purposes. Each player and game official should be brought their own beverage container on the field during timeouts.
Only one captain from each team will be allowed on the field during the pregame coin toss. During the toss all participants should practice social distancing. Participants have been advised not to shake hands prior to and following the coin toss. The tradition of shaking hands after the game has been suspended as well.
Other considerations include players, coaches, game officials, team personnel and game administration officials washing and sanitizing their hands as often as possible during and after the contest.
Everyone should maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times while on the sidelines and on the field of play when possible.
Everyone should have their own beverage container that is not shared.
Cloth face coverings are permissible for all coaches and team staff and for all game administration officials.
Gloves are permissible for all coaches and team staff and for all game administration officials.
Non-essential personnel who are on the field level throughout the contest should be limited.
If available, dressing facilities for game officials and teams should be large enough for social-distancing protocols and should be properly cleaned and sanitized prior to their arrival.
Things will also be different for the fans attending. The following guidelines were received from MHSAA in regard to stadiums and attendance. Pedestrian flow will be restricted in common areas.
Attendance policy and quarantine procedure will be determined before team competition begins and at the appropriate time.
Staff should post social distancing signs inside and outside of facilities, and should establish a “no mask no entry” protocol.
All game day personnel involved in the athletic event should be screened prior to working the event. Game day personnel include, but are not limited to, chain crew, officials, athletic trainers, timers, judges, scorers, ball boy/girl, etc.
Hand sanitizing stations should be available, and on duty personnel must wear masks and gloves.
Any auxiliary persons (ticket takers, concession stand workers, security, media, and volunteers) should be screened prior to working an athletic event. Method of screening may be determined by the host school.
Any auxiliary participant who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 should follow CDC and MDH guidelines before being allowed to work an event.
Concession stand workers should wear masks and gloves, and create a plan for line management at concession stands.