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East Ascension fans fill the stands at a home game against Zachary.

There has been frustration, particularly for parents and coaches, as the LHSAA continues to ponder its options for fall sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

National Federation of High Schools executive director Karissa Niehoff made it clear that the LHSAA and other states have not missed the boat in this process. She said everyone, including the NFHS, is navigating uncharted waters.

“As we see those decisions emerge, we are going to see a patchwork (look), across the country,” Niehoff said during a Zoom news conference held Monday from the NFHS office in Indianapolis. “But one of the things that is consistent is that state associations want to be back. They want schools participating in sports and activities.

“In some states, we’re seeing a two-season approach and in others we’re seeing an abbreviated three-season approach being considered. For full contact sports like football, I think you will see delays.”

Niehoff’s presentation, which included a chart of states and their decisions on fall sports, came on the day that the LHSAA sent its member schools a list of guidelines for football, beginning Aug. 3 as Louisiana remains in Phase 2 of its reopening.

The NFHS graphic showed that Louisiana and Alabama are the only two southern states that have not announced a delay or change. As of Monday, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia are the only states that have opted for no fall football. A total of 27 states have not altered their sports seasons.

Niehoff noted the “energy” surrounding youth sports, recreation sports and collegiate sports this summer. But she also pointed out that high school sports are a separate entity with unique parameters.

“We are different because we are education based. We’re looking not just at a focus on athletics and activities, but also at getting kids back to school,” Niehoff said. “We believe that kids need to return in the safest manner possible. There is research coming out of Wisconsin. It was reported that they had over three times greater incidence of depression, likely linked to not being able to engage in school and co-curricular programs.

“We want to make sure we are paying not just attention to COVID-19, but also the emotional and mental wellness of our students.”

Niehoff said the NFHS favors having fans either back in the stands once play begins. However, she said states and their schools should look at their options and also expand virtual ways for fans to view events. Niehoff noted that the NFHS network will look to expand its platform.

LHSAA’s guide

The LHSAA memo offered a football blueprint for what can be done before the start of fall practice rules Aug. 10.

On Aug. 3, players can wear helmets, cleats, hand shields. They can train with pop-up dummies and do instrasquad 7-on-7 drills with no contact allowed and work out in groups of 25 or less. Indoor practices must be done in a room with a partition. Shoulder pads can be added to the mix on Aug. 6.

The communication from LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine notes that more guidance will come once Gov. John Bel Edwards announces Louisiana’s move to Phase 3, including the use of more equipment and groups of 50 players.


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com