Private, public schools differ in return-to-play philosophy | Guam Sports

With the novel coronavirus pandemic approaching the seven-month mark and as the island remains in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero recently signed an executive order allowing golf, tennis, scuba diving and gyms to resume activity. In a subsequent order, the governor paved the way for sports organizations to submit startup plans for noncontact training to the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

As tennis players, golfers, denizens of the deep and sporting organizations rejoiced, the executive orders gave the island’s sports chiefs hope that interscholastic competition may be nearing, although the government gave no indication when that might happen.

“Having been in lockdown for four weeks, five weeks, any news concerning the ability for students” to participate in sports “is uplifting information,” said Terry Debold, the president of the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam, the nonprofit organization that manages private school sports. “It’s great, I think.

“Our kids have been confined, quarantined, and they must be facing mental distress,” he added.

Debold added that the IIAAG is working on a plan to submit to Public Health and hopes the two entities can work together to come up with an acceptable solution.

“We (IIAAG) have been certainly working together on a safe return-to-play policy in anticipation that interscholastic (sports) … will resume at the approval of the government and health officials,” he said. “At such point that the policies and procedures should allow for team sports and team competition to resume, it’s our collective memberships’ responsibility, it’s our duty, to ensure that we have all of the necessary precautions in place, as opposed to waiting until that time to start saying, ‘OK, how do we need to do this?’”

Al Garrido, the acting sports coordinator for the Guam Department of Education Interscholastic Sports Association, the organization that manages public school sports, is taking a more metered approach in terms of when plans will be submitted and competition may resume.

Garrido said ISA is “extremely excited that there have been relaxed guidelines, but we remain cautious in putting our student-athletes at risk.”

Decisions for sports will continue to move in line with the Guam Department of Education, he added.

“Since students are not yet allowed to attend classes face-to-face, we will monitor the progress and encourage our student-athletes to focus on attending classes and staying in as good physical, mental and emotional shape as possible.

“We are already preparing to present our ideas once we feel the opportunity presents itself,” Garrido said.

National sports organization recommends competition

The National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body for high school athletics, through its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, encourages the return to competition and has created a comprehensive, 16-page plan. 

“The NFHS SMAC believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition,” it stated. “The NFHS SMAC recognizes that it is likely that ALL students will not be able to return to – and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools, regions and states.

“There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s health protection agency, has also addressed the return to sports but has taken a community-based, hands-off approach.

“Each community may need to make adjustments to meet its unique needs and circumstances,” the CDC stated on its website. “Implementation should be guided by what is practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community.”

“There is a great amount of resource right now through a number of national and international sports organizations that give us a wealth of information that’s been tested and approved by various authorities,” Debold said.

“We need to look at those things and see how we can apply that here locally,” he added.

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