Fall sports set to start practice Aug. 14, with restrictions

by Daniel McKay
Whitefish Pilot | August 5, 2020 9:51 AM

Fall sports are ready to take the field, but things are going to look a little different this fall.

The Montana High School Association confirmed last week that fall sports will happen, though specific requirements will be in place for teams.

For football, volleyball, cross country and soccer, practice will start on time on Aug. 14 at this point.

Golf competition begins Aug. 15.

For teams this fall, the MHSA is requiring that practices be conducted in “pods” or “bubbles” of participants to limit exposure, that timeouts be increased to two minutes so athletes can better hydrate, and that administrators limit nonessential personnel on the field.

Events, with exceptions in cross country and golf, cannot be multi-event, meaning students can only participate in one sport in the season.

All sports are listed by MHSA as Tier 1, which are set to start on time and as close to the original schedule as possible, with masks required per the Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive.

For golf specifically, dual meets are recommended and encouraged over multi-team events. If multi-team events happen, there must be no practice round, there must be shotgun starts with a maximum of 90 players on an 18-hold course and 45 players on a 9-hole course. Teams will play together by school, and all teams will access their starting tee via different ports of entry.

The same goes for cross country in regards to dual meets versus multi-team events.

For multi-team events, there can be no more than 200 participants, teams must stay in their own staging area, there can be no more than 25 runners at the start line, and the next runners up will be in a corral before they start. Runners must wear masks in their team staging area, corral and until they are called to the starting line, and once the race is over they must immediately return to the bus.

In other activities, All-State band, choir and orchestra music festival in October has been canceled due to high risk of transmission and will not be rescheduled during the school year.

There’s a host of other regulations as well. For example, all players must have their own water bottle.

MHSA is calling for a tiered approach. So, for example, under Tier 2, if there’s a delayed start due to the virus, nonconference games could be canceled. Under Tier 5, the worst-case scenario, the post season could be adjusted entirely.

Teams could also have to forfeit games if they refuse to go to a site where the sport is still allowed. A team under quarantine that doesn’t play a game will be considered a no contest.

How schools will deal with fans remains up to them.