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MHSAA hopeful for smooth 2021 seasons

The Mississippi High School Activities Association made it through the fall semester without having to cancel any sports seasons, and there’s hope that the spring semester will go the same way.

A list of COVID-19 protocols, some of which were unique to specific sports, was provided to school districts over the summer when athletics were allowed to resume, and while there have been some games that had to be cancelled, so far no sport has had to end its season early.
MHSAA Executive Director Rickey Neaves said that comes down to the work put in on the local level by every participating school in order to continue playing during the pandemic.

“The schools did a great job with all of those protocols. I’m extremely proud we played. Our number one goal at the beginning of the semester was to play when and if you can, and we’ll go from there,” Neaves said.

The majority of protocols used during fall sports will remain the same for winter sports, which are currently in session, and spring sports, which will start in the coming months.

Neaves said specific rules, like helmets not begin shared by batters and catchers having their own sets of equipment, will be implemented along with the overarching list of restrictions in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among athletes.

The MHSAA has used the past several months to learn what does and doesn’t work when it comes to hosting competitive sporting events during a pandemic.

Those experiences will be used to shape and create atmospheres that’ll allow spring sports to take place after having to cancel the seasons in 2020.

“It helps us tremendously because when it hit us last spring everything shut down and that continued on through the summer. Then we started in the fall and it was a learning experience for all of us. It does help to have some past experiences in dealing with this as we move forward and try to finish the winter and springs sports seasons,” Neaves said.

Even as case numbers rise in Mississippi and across the U.S., there is hope on the horizon with vaccines becoming more publicly available with each passing week.

Neaves said that the world will likely never return to the “normal” everyone was used to before the pandemic, but the vaccine may help alleviate some of the uncertainty surrounding every day life.

“It gives us a glimmer of hope that the vaccine is successful and people take it, and then we can move on and get back to what we used to call normal. I really don’t think we’ll ever get back to that level of normal again because this will always be in the back of everyone’s mind, but maybe that’s a good, positive thing that comes out of this is that we do pay closer attention to those protocols and make all of our sports and venues safer,” Neaves said.

The organization has been in constant contact with the sports medicine committee to create protocols and plans that allow for competition to take place in the safest way possible.

It’s a source of good information regarding the pandemic, and allows Neaves to be optimistic about the feasibility of having spring sports finish the season this year.

“We went into this year saying we had to save our spring sports for this year because they were the ones who did not get to participate last year, and it would be a great travesty for those kids to not have a season two years in a row. Not only was the goal to finish fall and winter sports, but with our eyes continually on spring sports so we can have a season and things are looking good,” Neaves said.