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MHSAA publishes possible rule considerations for the fall

Last week the Mississippi High School Activities Association published several rule considerations regarding COVID-19 for sports that are planned to begin in the fall, including swim, volleyball, soccer, “spirit” and football.

The considerations are changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and are meant to educate programs on the health guidelines and rule changes that are in place for the upcoming seasons.

Spirit considerations

Of the published lists of changes, the spirit rule changes were the least extreme.

The new rules state that when the athletes are performing they must be properly spaced out around the sideline or playing surface so they can observe social distancing.

Additionally, no jewelry is allowed except a “religious medal” without a chain that must be taped and worn under the athlete’s uniform.

Masks may be worn, but are not required and a “medical alert medal” must be taped and visible on the athlete’s uniform.

Volleyball considerations

Volleyball’s rule changes are numerous in order to ensure athlete safety while competing.

All pre-match conferences will take place at center court with coaches and referees observing social distancing.

There will be no coin toss and instead the visiting team will serve first with the teams alternating serves every set.

Teams won’t be allowed to go through the normal tradition of switching benches between sets and personnel should be limited so that social distancing can be observed. Substitutions will be changed and moved closer to the attack line so that the player and new substitute can observe social distancing when trading places.

Face coverings are permissible as are gloves, long sleeves, and pants for both officials and players.

There will be no handshakes before or after a match.

Swimming and diving considerations

The swimming and diving rules center on limiting personnel in the pool area so the athletes can compete safely.

Athletes will be required to show up to the competition already dressed so as to limit the number of people in close proximity to each other while changing into their suits.

A P.A. system, hand signals or written communication are recommended for interactions between officials, coaches and athletes so as to maintain proper spacing during the competition.

Timers are required to wear “facial coverings” along with takeoff judges.

The rules state multiple sessions of warm up periods should be included in order to limit the number of swimmers in a single lane or competition area.

Soccer considerations

The new soccer guidelines aren’t that restrictive due to the outdoor nature of the sport.

Handshakes are to be suspended and ball holders, if a team has any, are encouraged to observe social distancing measures.

Substitutes should maintain six feet of separation from the player they’re coming on for, and social distancing is recommended for athletes on the bench. Masks and gloves are permissible.

Football considerations

There are numerous considerations in place for the football season due to the contact nature of the sport.

The team box can be extended to the 10-yard line on both sides of the field so that players can observe social distancing while not on the field of play, while the sharing of equipment, towels and other apparel is prohibited. The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest and ball holders should maintain six feet of social distancing at all times during the contest.

Cloth face coverings are permissible, but a plastic shield covering the face that isn’t fully integrated into the facemask, or that is tinted, is not allowed.

Rules regarding mouth guards are still in the works, but gloves are allowed if they meet specific standards.

Timeouts can be extended to two minutes in length and should take place on the field for social distancing purposes.

Each official and player must have their own beverage container brought to them on the field.

It’s stated that everyone should have their own beverage container that is not shared and that players, officials and coaches should wash or sanitize their hands as often as possible.

These are the current considerations currently published for the 2020 return to competition, but there may be more in the future as the MHSAA and other organizations try to find the safest way for sports to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic.