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MHSAA officials trained for unusual fall sports seasons

Not only do athletes and coaches have to adapt their plans because of COVID-19, officials have also been hard at work preparing for the restart of high school sports in Mississippi during these unusual times. Rickey Neaves is an associate director for the Mississippi High School Activities Association, and he is in charge of the training and coordination of the organization’s officials.

To prepare for the start of sports during the pandemic, all training and classes were moved online so the officials could access necessary resources without having to meet in large crowds.

Neaves said there was an additional session on COVID-19 to make sure the officials understood the guidelines in place and how sports in the fall would work.

“We are going to allow them to use electronic whistles and wear masks if they choose to do so. We’re not mandating that, we’re just making it an option for them. All those guidelines along with virtual training is what we’ve done to ensure the health and safety of our officials,” Neaves said.

Different areas of the state have been hit harder by the coronavirus, meaning there was the possibility of an official going from one hot spot to the next while refereeing games.

However, Neaves said that won’t be an issue because schools call on their local officiating organizations to enlist referees, and those referees stay in that specific area.

Neaves said there will not even be a possibility of an official having to travel outside of their designated zone until playoff time.

Officials will also play an important role in enforcing the guidelines and restrictions put in place by the MHSAA.

Neaves said officials are expected to call the game they’re set to officiate, but there are steps to take to ensure their safety.

If a referee were to arrive at a game where certain requirements aren’t being met, they’re expected to contact the MHSAA.

At that point, the MHSAA will talk with the school’s administration to fix any problems before the game starts. Neaves said every school has the guidelines on hand and those administrators know they’ll need to be followed in order for fall sports to work.

“I would say we are taking every precaution with our schools, athletes, coaches and officials to try to ensure we can have these seasons as safely as possible and try to get life back to our new normal,” Neaves said.